A year ago - right at this moment - I was minutes away from waking up to a new day, and the beginning of a journey to a new life, in a new place where nobody knew me, apart from my husband.
My whole life was packed up - into nine boxes and four suitcases, and on their way to America, save for the one case, and two flight bags I had prepared for traveling. The house was clean, and empty. The children lay asleep, curled up next to each other on the blow up mattress, and I spent my last night on the couch that belonged to the rented house I would be giving back to the letting agent that morning.
My departure from my home town on the south coast was a quiet one. I left without ceremony. My only Facebook post read, "Right, that's it. We are finished in this town" - those who know me will know this phrase to be the one I use when playing tickle with Miniman. It was apt.
My best friend drove us to the hotel near to Heathrow Airport, and that's where we said goodbye, both avoiding any tears streaking down our faces. The children and I settled into our room, ready to fly early to the new life that waited for us here in Chicago.
Chicago. It still doesn't seem all that real, yet May the 1st marks the one year anniversary of me moving here. A whole year has gone by, and so much has changed.
The year began like any other previous trip to visit my now husband. It was like a holiday. It was bizarre to grasp that this time, we would be going back to England only for our Visas, and for visits. We would be living in Chicago, and building a life here.
Much of the last year has passed by in a blur. There have been some fun times, but at the same time there has been a battle as we tried to settle in. First we had to house hunt, then when we found one we liked, within decent reach of both decent schools, and Mr Poppy's work - it flooded with eight inches of contaminated water. The sewers backed up during six hours of the most terrifying storms I've had to endure. I was struggling to cope with the stress of coping with the storms in themselves. To have the house flood within eight days of moving made my emotions burst, and I started to question every decision I had made relating to this move.
Those questions haven't left me since. Every time there is a storm, I want to leave. In the aftermath and clean up of that house, it became apparent that it would take months to reach a resolution with our landlord. We did, finally in October, and we're allowed to break our lease. Unfortunately, no rentals were available in our area, so we began toying with the idea of buying a house, instead.
The idea snowballed, and we completed on our house in early January. Buying was cheaper than than renting, and we technically are saving - even if we turn and sell within the next eighteen months. Now, we have a watertight home, but the other worries haven't gone away. A year ago, my main concern that played over and again was what if I don't like it. How would I be able to go home? The flip side of that played simultaneously. What if I did like it here? How could I not go home?
Having this constant discussion in my head has all but switched me off. I don't talk about how I feel all that much. I don't blog as much. I don't have anything to say. Not anything that makes much sense. I don't like Chicago, but I don't hate it, either.
I know I haven't given it a chance. I have hidden away, with no intention of embracing the culture within my surroundings. It's always felt temporary, but I wonder if my reluctance to get used to being here, is to avoid actually liking it here. Ever since agreeing to come to America, I have been fixating on the semi - endpoint. Two years. Halfway through, and it feels there is a clock ticking, counting down to the day we decide what to do next - yet knowing when we do decide what we are doing next. Knowing that there is going to be a new truck full of stress no matter what we decide. Go home - and we face questions about accommodation, jobs, schools, to name a few worries. Stay, and we hurt people - family and friends who we love by being so damn far away.
There's no way in hell that I want to go back to the cesspit of a town that I come from, but I have no idea where else I would rather be. No wonder I don't want to embrace this new life. It's far more comfortable to switch off my mind, and sit right here, hiding in plain sight, on the fence.
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Filed under: The Expat Experience