A few days ago, on the commute home, we drove past that spot where we used to go to watch the sunset when I first arrived and we were still living with my in-laws. It reminded us of what life was like a year ago, before I moved here – the endless phone chats, the snaps and selfies we would send each other through the day, the date nights on Skype, etc. – and the first couple of months after I did. It’s amazing what difference 365 days can make!
I would be lying if I said it was easy – moving from one country to another is everything but easy – but I still believe it was the best decision I’ve ever made. It was a challenging year for sure, but a rewarding one too. And, as cliché as it sounds, I think I got out of it stronger.
Do you know what a foreign accent is? It’s a sign of bravery.
― Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
I landed at Heathrow twelve months ago with nothing except for my cat and two suitcases… I had no house, no job, no support network. To be honest, I felt absolutely lost and that feeling lasted for months. In June, I decided to see a therapist and it helped a lot. With her help, I regained some confidence in myself and learned to redefine who I am.
This is something nobody tells you when you move halfway across the globe… Your identity changes. You remain the same person but those ‘tags’ that were always associated to you back home suddenly disappear and you are surrounded by people who have yet to give you a label. It sounds good in theory – a new start, a blank slate – but it’s actually quite difficult. It felt like being no one and it was a struggle at first, but I try to embrace it now. I also had to accept that, for many people, I would remain ‘the girl with the pink hair’ or ‘the girl with the accent’ and that’s okay.
She was nobody here. It was not just that she had no friends and family; it was rather that she was a ghost in this room, in the streets on the way to work, on the shop floor. Nothing meant anything.
― Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn
There were many other challenges – finding a job, building a solid relationship with Edward whilst living with his parents and dealing with his divorce, learning to drive on the wrong side of the road – but they only make me more grateful for what I have now.
I do miss ‘home’ sometimes but I don’t think it will ever feel like home again. Despite all the difficulties of moving to the UK and building a new life here, I have not once wanted to go back. I will certainly visit from time to time, but ‘home’ is here now. Somehow, even on the days when I feel the distance and curse my foreign accent, I cannot imagine moving back to Canada. I still define myself as French-Canadian, I laugh when people say it’s cold outside (though the English cold is so unpleasant, I’d take a Canadian cold any time instead) and I have an unhealthy obsession with maple syrup but a big chunk of my heart belongs to England now.
It’s said that you can never go home again, and it’s true enough, of course. But the opposite is also true. You must go back, and you always go back, and you can never stop going back, no matter how hard you try.
— Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram
I celebrated my first ‘UK anniversary’ a few days ago and I felt proud to do so; I overcame many fears this past year, I became more confident in myself and as Edward puts it, ‘I kicked butts’.
Life has changed a lot since February but only for the best. To this year, and to many more!