I don’t know if I can pinpoint the exact moment it started to feel like home. Maybe it was when I managed to arrive safely and swiftly at an unfamiliar destination without the help of Google Maps. Maybe it was when I was driving a car-full of other peoples’ children home from soccer practice, their chatter my children that of long-time friendships – familiarity and common ground.
Whatever it was, it arrived unannounced but so, so welcomed.
Being able to look back over the last 3 years with a sense of pride and comfort is not something I could have imagined on 4 November 2015.
I remember that day so clearly. I was on my to work, aboard a tightly-packed train, listening to James Bay’s Hold Back The River and sending WhatsApp messages to a special friend who I missed so, so much. I couldn’t type a word without a tear escaping my eyes and rolling down my face, soaking my top and dragging mascara across my cheeks. I missed my stop that day and, when I realised what I’d done, I sobbed so hard that a fellow commuter handed me a packet of tissues and asked me if I was okay. I wasn’t.
And that’s the thing – you won’t be “okay” for a while. You’ll be homesick, you’ll miss the people who knew you better than anyone else, you’ll feel like a stranger in every situation. Work will be overwhelming, quick Skype chats will turn into emotional meltdowns and you’ll feel like the tiniest blip of a human in the most gigantic, confusing and unfamiliar city. You’ll feel like you’re wrapped in cotton wool and nothing sounds or tastes like it should, a decision as simple as choosing an item off a menu for lunch being an almost insurmountable task. And you’ll feel like that feeling will never go away.
But then one day, without you even realising it – and most likely only a couple of years later – it will go and you will feel … “normal”. You’ll know which milk your kids prefer, how early to you need to leave home to arrive somewhere on time. You’ll have friends who you can trust to collect your children from school when you find yourself stuck in a meeting, a support system of babysitters, besties and a family of colleagues at a job in which you feel confident, capable and valued. You’ll have a village again, and you’ll feel like you belong.
The thing is, though, I’ll tell you all of this now and, if you’re thinking about immigrating too, you’ll nod and take mental notes about the difficulties you imagine you’ll face on your own journey. But then, when you’re in the thick of that journey, you’ll forget that you read this and you’ll feel like you’re all alone with these feelings of despair and that you will never see the wood for the trees, ever again. You’ll have regrets and fears, nightmares about bad decisions and home comforts abandoned. You’ll cry on trains and get horribly lost in a new city, rack up a series of fines for driving in the bus lanes and unintentional illegal parking. But then, over the months and years, tiny pieces of The Puzzle of Your New Life will start to fall into place.
I know now that this is home – it feels like home. And for someone whose heart is the sole deciding factor when it comes to her happiness, feeling at home is the most important part. Three years ago, I felt lost and hopeless. Nothing anyone told me made me feel like it was going to get any better. Ever. But it did … and a quote read out recently in a yoga class really helped me articulate this – I have really and truly felt everything over the last 3 years: sadness, fear, loss, confusion, loneliness, love, lightness, freedom, comfort and belonging. I felt it all, dealt with it all and pushed through.
“Let everything happen to you. Beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke.
So, feel what you feel. Let people help you. Don’t go it alone. One day, not now or tomorrow, but maybe next week, next month or next year, it will feel okay and you will feel like you’re home.