Well, things have changed a bit in the last few months. Is that the understatement of the year? Hello, my name is Tanya and I’m officially an American expatriate living in London. It seemed like a far off dream that may never come to fruition, and now I wake up next to my husband every morning and find myself using words like “telly”and “crisps”and being genuinely awed by the constant beauty I stumble upon in this city. It’s strange when I’m the one with an accent and having to spell words with an extra ‘u’ or exchanging a ‘z’ with an ‘s,’ but I’m managing!
People talk about starting over all the time, as if it’s this imaginary opportunity that is too far from reach but still appears occasionally in our daydreams when days are rough – a wonderful possibility, but unlikely to happen. Yet here I am, living proof that it can happen.
The day I found out I was moving abroad and began telling friends and family, I was met with a chorus of “good for yous” and “well dones,” commending me for never giving up on my goal and finally achieving it, years later. Naysayers were shocked at my success, and supporters popped out of every nook and cranny on social media, suddenly donning team Tanya cheerleading outfits. I felt accomplished and excited and ready for this new chapter in my life, but more importantly, I felt fear. I was legitimately starting over. How the hell can you prepare for that?
By nature, I’m a planner. I make lists, I plan ahead and I like to think I’m usually prepared for almost any eventuality. But in this instance, I had no idea what I was doing or what to expect. I played it cool, calm and collected for the most part, but I was harboring a deep panic on the inside. Sure, I had previously lived abroad multiple times. But those instances were always temporary and for short periods of time. Was I ready for the long term? Could I hack it?
Even still, I don’t have answers to those questions. The reality of my fear grows each day. Some days I even struggle to leave the flat, afraid someone will tease me for my American accent or I’ll get hopelessly lost and be unable to find my way home. All of the stress and pains of finding a new job in my field that I once thought I had finally hurdled when I landed my last position have returned with a vengeance. Yes, I’m finally living in the city I’ve been aching to be in with my better half by my side, but I’d be lying if I said every day was a breeze. Even if you tried to imagine what it may be like to pack a chunk of your belongings into a few suitcases, say good-bye to all your friends and family, quit your job, leave behind all sense of familiarity and move 4,000 miles to a different country that operates far differently to what you’re used to… it still doesn’t scrape the surface of how it really feels. Hell, when I first got here, I didn’t know how to operate any of the appliances or even open my front door without getting help first. In a lot of ways, I feel like a child figuring out the world for the first time. And at the ripe old age of 25, it’s easy to see how that can be a major blow to your confidence.
The day-to-day stuff is hard. I don’t know anyone in this city, I’m alone and left to my own devices the majority of each day and I’m now 5 hours ahead from those I did know back home. I thought I could still seek support from the friends I left behind, but within days of moving, I quickly realized that my moving abroad symbolically served as the death of all friendships I once held. I thought it’d be hard keeping up friendships when I never got to see them anymore, but I thought I could make it work. What I didn’t think was that most (if not all) of those friends would choose to write me off and stop speaking to me entirely. That was something I wasn’t ready for. I’m not angry about it because I understand the difficulties of maintaining long distance relationships of any kind (um, hello!), but I guess I didn’t expect to be so on my own so soon.
And while it’s easy to get down and out about the things I’ve lost and the changes I’ve been forced to go through, I try my hardest to see the best in my situation. This is my blank slate. This is my chance to rewrite my future, and for once in my life, there’s no question of whether or not these plans would permanently include my best friend, my partner in life, my soulmate. I’m here now and for as long as we choose to stay here. There’s no more wondering what may come because I’ve finally got the power to make those decisions myself. And as terrifying as that feels sometimes, I also know how powerful it is too. Not many people get an opportunity in life like this, and despite whatever reservations seep into my thoughts, I know I’m lucky and I know of all people, I’m strong enough to prevail and come out of this experience a better person. I may have a mixed bag of emotions, but at the end of the day, I know I’m right where I belong.
It feels good to be lost in the right direction