Out of Office Reply - Natali Morris

Last month my family and I moved abroad. We have many reasons for this but the other day at our visa application appointment, I realized that the main motivation was the same thing that has pushed generations of parents across borders: to seek a better life for their family. 

I am not one of those who rejects America. We had a good life there. But my husband and I have had a hard few years in our business and this has forced us to question everything.

In the spring of 2018 my husband found out that his business associate was stealing from investors and tenants. This person had several other business associates who were also harmed but because my husband had some residual “fame” from his former career as a news anchor, he was given a disproportionate amount of blame, particularly in national press. The press omitted details that did not fit their narrative. They knew that other companies and investors had worked with this associate and been similarly harmed but they left them all out. They knew that our business in other markets did not have this problem and they interviewed satisfied investors and partners in those other markets. They left all of this out too. We explained the details here if you care to know more.

But America is polarized and if you can write a headline about a Fox News guy doing something wrong, it will get clicked on in order to reinforce people’s conviction bias, one way or another. I’ve been guilty of clicking on such stories.

I watched my husband endure being called a fraud and a scammer and all manner of vile names. I watched him pose for photos for a story about his worst nightmare coming true for the New York Times. I’ve watched him exhibit such bravery knowing most men would have crumbled under the weight. I took the photo from the news article and turned it into a journal cover for a Father’s Day Gift in order to let him know that I see his courage under cruel and disproportionate fire and I love him more for it. I believe this with all of my being:

But my husband is good, through and through. Watching him go through this has been what I would imagine it would be like to watch him endure chemotherapy. It is poison he doesn’t deserve. I wish I could fix it. I wish it were me instead. His health has suffered. He began to withdraw emotionally. Our family suffered under the weight of it all. We both felt that we had to make a drastic change if we wanted to survive.

Last summer we spent a month in Italy. This was planned before we knew we had any problems. This happened to be one of the worst months of this crisis since it was so early on. Harmed investors and dog-pilers on the Web were slinging vitriolic mud at us and it was hurtful and sad because these people were legitimately harmed and scared. They were not our enemies but they wanted blood for their pain and they wanted it from us, even though we never stole from them or even had possession of their money. Ever.

My favorite was from a woman who calls herself a “Shakti coach” in her Twitter profile. She and her husband made a habit of calling me a thief and a cunt for weeks. I didn’t know Shakti knew the word cunt as an epithet.

While we were abroad, Clayton and I did our best to fortify for the inevitable legal battles that would follow but when it was time to return to America, we both looked at our return tickets and said, “Newark? Why are we going there?” 

Not that New Jersey isn’t beautiful, depending on your vantage point. But we have no family in New Jersey. We have no jobs in and around New Jersey. New Jersey is neither of our home states. So why go back to a place that is expensive and crowded, and where we are over-exposed to people who think we are cunts? 

This may seem like paranoia but when we first heard from the reporter at the New York Times who wanted to cover this story he said that he knew where we lived. When he followed up a few months ago, he said that he knew which day we had a moving van in front of our house and he was right. Do you have any idea what it feels like to be stalked by a national newspaper like that? I pray you never do. That led to weeks of sleepless nights, double checking the alarm system was armed every hour while my children slept in their beds. No one deserves that, no matter what level of blameless you believe us to be.

We are guilty of inadvertently choosing a bad actor to work with in our business. Some of that may be naivete but more of it is rotten luck. Clayton was not an ignorant entrepreneur. He did a lot of diligence on this business model and he worked his ass off to advocate for his investors. So much of this scheme was simply kept from him. We have answered for this to the attorney general in three states and in several lawsuits. I don’t care if you believe it or not. It is my soul challenge to share after all, not yours to judge.

When we realized that this challenge would not be over in a matter of weeks or months, we knew that we wanted to change the energy of where we completed it. We did not want to stay in such a big life in New Jersey. We had two homes, two cars, two very expensive private school tuition payments, and we were paying some of the highest taxes in the country, supporting a dozen employees, and 5-figure-per-month legal bills. It’s not that we thought we couldn’t keep it up. We no longer wanted to. We asked ourselves: Why make our lives so hard if we don’t even really want to be here?

So we pulled a decorative globe off the shelf one night and asked, “Where would we go if we can go anywhere?” And then we deleted the hypothetical. “We can go anywhere. Where do we choose?”

Neither of us have to work for the news and at this point in our lives neither of us want to. When you face a soul challenge and realize you can go anywhere, the more obvious question becomes: Why stay?

We can’t run from our legal battles, no matter where we live, nor would we. We have to see this through in a way that we can be proud of and answer for on a soul level. This move is not to run.

It is to heal!

The problem is that the anxiety that I felt in New Jersey being stalked by neighbors and newspapers came with me. I still find it hard to speak to my children without threatening thoughts circulating my brain like a poisonous gas. I still find my husband waking up with panic attacks in the dead of night. We have a lot of trauma to heal from and soul searching to embark upon. 

But we are also still broadcasters. We came to these lives to share and we still want to share what we know in order to serve others. What I know now is that even people with financial freedom can be imprisoned and that money does not buy peace. Clayton and I would like to share this journey of living abroad and healing our souls while also still trying to be the most prudent income investors we can possibly be. So if you’d like to join us on this quest for both financial and emotional freedom, I welcome you along! This is the story of a family that suffered a loss of friends and innocence and more goodwill than I care to measure. We crossed a border to change the scenery and learn what is left when you take a beating and then pick yourselves back up.