I always loosely refer to the reasons I decided to stay in North America. I write about it mostly in a jokey way, making light of the cultural differences between Australians and Canadians, social commentaries on Torontonians, and the little idiosyncrasies of adapting to a lifestyle far from the those of my childhood and early adulthood.
When I meet new people, they all quickly pick up on the foreign accent, and ask me inevitable personal questions like:
“Were are you from?”
Which can then migrate to much more personal questions very quickly, such as:
“Do you miss your family?”
“How long are you staying?”
“Don’t you get homesick?”
“What made you decide to stay here?”
“Isn’t it hard?”
A lot of times, the conversations about me being in Toronto will end with the interviewers pronouncement of:
“Wow! I could never do that!”
“I’m so jealous! I wish I was brave enough to just pick up and go.”
I appreciate that people find my journey and life experience interesting (if I didn’t, I wouldn’t keep a blog), but sometimes I feel like I am an exhibit in the Zoo, even more so than I did when I lived in Australia, (where I had the right accent) and in Asia, (where there was a large community of expats I fit into.)
The truth of the matter is, I am not especially brave.
“Yes. I do miss my family.
Every single day.
They are my foundation.
A collection of my best friends.
A huge part of my life.”
“I don’t know how long I am staying.
It’s an adventure.
It could be a year. It could be ten.
I haven’t put a time limit on myself.”
“Yes. I do get homesick.
Of course I do.
How could I not?
I miss the familiar,
My favourite Coffee shop.”
“I chose to stay in Toronto because I like Canada.
I had the visa, I knew of a job I could get.
I knew of an apartment for rent.
It seemed like the easiest option at the time.
It saved me the cost of the flight home.
It was different.
Something new and exciting.”
“Yes. It is hard.”
And when people tell me they could never do it, or that they wish they were brave enough, I smile politely and make some kind of socially appropriate remark, but really I want to make a face like:
Because I don’t feel so brave.
I have huge meltdowns. I cry, and I think about packing it all up and going home, regularly. There are days where I speak to members of my family and it’s so great to hear their voice or see their faces over Skype, but when they are gone, when we hang up, I feel empty and far away from their every day lives, and I hate it, and have to ask myself repeatedly what I am doing with my life.
Some day’s there is a crushing sense of loneliness, and I realize just how far away from the people I love I am. It hits me that my friends in Australia and Hong Kong, and I, are drifting apart, and that the places I loved are not the same now as they are in my memory. We’re all growing up and changing.
I know from experience, that the first year is the hardest, when you move to a new place. I’m getting there (it will be a year in June), but for now I’m kind of trapped in that place in-between. Things aren’t totally new and shiny, but I still get frustrated because I don’t know simple things everybody else seems to know, and I can still get so, so, lost. I hate feeling like such an outsider, when every day I feel more and more like I belong.
Rationally, I know it’s a process. On a human level, that is difficult to take day after day.
It’s exhausting and emotionally draining, and I feel like this:
So what is the alternative you ask? If it is so hard, why don’t I just go back where it is familiar and easy.
And the answer is, because if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten.
And the thought of that unchanging routine, scares me more, would be more damaging to my soul, than the difficulties and hardships of trying to break in somewhere new.
That is the reality which keeps me struggling through the tough bits day by day, because even though it is hard, the reward is adventure, experiences, fantastic stories to tell. The new and exciting contribute to my creativity. The hardships and adversity help me face other challenges in different aspects of my life.
My attitude is if I can move to Toronto with a backpack, $1000, and the will to make it work, then really, I can do anything.
I guess that’s a little bit brave.
(dedicated to JS for reminding me)