I am an expatriate in every sense of the word. It’s in my blood, inherited from my extraordinary American parents who spent their lives exploring the world. By the time I was ten I had lived in Caracas, Venezuela (twice); Santiago, Chile; Istanbul, Turkey; Chappaqua, New York; Genoa, Italy; and San Juan, Puerto Rico. I’d spent a year in boarding school in Geneva, Switzerland, and had been home schooled for a year in Genoa.
When I learned to speak, I spoke English and Spanish interchangeably. By the time I was nine I was fluent in Spanish, French and Italian. I’d lost the smattering of Turkish I’d learned during a year in Istanbul.
There was never any question that I’d have an international career. After graduating from Duke University and Vanderbilt Law School, where I served as the first female Editor-in-Chief of the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, I became the first female international attorney with BellSouth Corporation. I put together cellular joint ventures and was counsel to BellSouth subsidiaries throughout Asia, Latin America and Europe. The adventures were many, the satisfaction deep. It was also relentlessly stressful. It was the fulfillment of my dream of an international career, and I loved it, then I didn’t, then I completely burned out.
In 1995 I took a three-year leave of absence to recover, and it took every bit of that. I returned to the company in a non-international subsidiary for six months before I quit altogether to devote myself to animal protection law and wildlife advocacy.
After a shocking diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in 2002, I went back into the regular workplace, this time as General Counsel of a small multinational company. I needed to do this not only for the insurance but to put more structure in my life and to force me to get out of bed in the morning. It worked, and it showed me I would still have a life.
In 2010 I left the practice of law and since then have devoted my time to writing, animal advocacy, Great Ape and elephant conservation, interspecies communication, medical research advocacy, traveling for pleasure, and other interests.
My personal life: Since a devastating divorce more years ago than I care to admit, I’ve had my share of relationships. I’m blessed with dear friends without whom I wouldn’t have made it—but, true to the themes of my life, they are spread around the globe. Thank God for Skype. And I’d still love to find love with the right man.
I’ve never “put off” doing the things I wanted because I was alone. I’ve lived an incredibly full life; it has been an embarrassment of riches, really. But I’ve also suffered from debilitating depressions, panic attacks, and hypochondria; paralyzing insecurity; and, because I am an Adult Third Culture Kid, the feeling that I am, wherever I am, an outsider.
Every aspect of my life has been and always be informed by my international upbringing and my consequent search for home and community—a central theme of my upcoming memoir. If you’d like a taste, stop by my companion blog, Expat: A Memoir, going live in the summer of 2016.