The fiddle-leaf fig tree
I don't want to leave this one behind.
It has been almost a month since we moved to Canada. Today I am writing this blog post, as always, it helps me to process my feelings and everything happening.
We have been planning for this move for the past year. It hasn't been an easy decision for our family. We took this decision to move once more -- from the US to Canada this time, hoping that this is our last international move as a family.
We believe Canada can be our home. For the rest of our lives.
It became too forceful and at times impossible to navigate the US immigration system year after year. It wore us down slowly and eventually broke us.
We have been planning all the details, when and how -- Both the Work Permit and the Express Entry, contingency after contingency. But life had other plans for everyone. After all, it is 2020. Just before we were about to execute our plans, the coronavirus pandemic exploded in March and since then the past 8 months have been very difficult. All the hard decisions, adapting to the never-ending changes that this fluid situation brought -- we embraced...We survived, to be truthful. And finally, we were able to move to Canada in November.
I felt like when we were able to do this, finally, move -- I would be relieved. And be happy.
Instead, now I am feeling lonely and depressed. And I've been thinking, why? Shouldn't I feel relieved or relaxed? That finally we made it and I am away from all the work-related stresses and moving towards a career that I want to pursue??
I was thinking and reading and came across this phenomenon called "expat depression and culture shock", which exactly looks like what I am experiencing. Feeling lost, depressed at times, and having little energy or interest after moving to a new country. That sounds like me, occasionally these days... (A little psychoeducation goes a long way, helps to get a clearer understanding of any difficult situation...)
When it was clear that we were moving to Canada, I felt like this time it would be easier. Actually, I wanted and wished it to be easier... Typical me, trying to control - LIFE!
Living in the US for the past 5 years, in New York - I believed we would be "immune" to these feelings when we move this time.
I vaguely remember the first year in NY and how hard it was on us. Adapting to a new work culture, social culture, creating a support network from scratch... But I also remember being so immersed in work so that I didn't even have time to feel anything really. now looking back, I struggled. A lot. Just didn't have time to think about it. Maybe even afraid to admit.
After 5 long years, I started to feel like I know my way around NY -- the culture, the people, even the politics. I had a doctor, bought some plants even for our home - hoping to lie some roots myself as well. But the reality was different. Reality made it clear that there was no future for us in the US.
And I always bow to reality.
This time, after moving to Canada -- I am feeling the loss & the grief. Loss of my life as I know it, loss of a part of my identity. Again.
When you move to another country,
It is the trivial things that make it so hard - so many little things accumulating and overwhelming you.
Like not knowing which bank to use, not having a doctor/dentist,
not knowing where the best grocery store is, or where to buy clothes,
not being able to recognize any brands in any store.
I always tell Arda that when I go out in Turkey, walking down a street I get this feeling of knowing the people; I mean who they can be what they might do for a living.
Losing that, once again - Not knowing a single soul in the entire city - is hard. It sometimes feels like being awake during my own brain surgery.
It took me a couple days to change my phone number and I have been thinking why is changing my phone number this hard? Maybe I was holding on to that as the last thing left to me from my US journey.
Even though I chose to voluntarily end it, I am sad that it ended.
I keep reminding myself this is hard, not because I am weak but it is indeed hard.
Moving to a new country for the second time in the past 5 years is hard. In the middle of a coronavirus pandemic. With a toddler and without any help.
It will take time to adapt and root.
Last week was my 33rd birthday and I chose a fiddle-leaf fig tree as my present.
Because this time I want to believe that I will not leave this tree behind and see it growing in this country, where I will call home.
I do not want to give it away, I want it to grow and lie roots, just like us.
I am writing this down, not for these feelings to take over me but to examine them and let them be. So that once they fulfill their purpose, they can pass.
Also hoping that someday this will help another expat, another fellow immigrant to feel less alone, less lost once they do this brave transition.
Today was one of the hardest days of this month, as Arda started his new job. I felt being without a job more intensely. (LinkedIn keeps asking me where do I currently work at? I purposefully ignore this question...) I've been thinking none of my friends or family asked me how am I feeling about this change. The fact that I am unemployed for the first time in my life is a change. A big one. And I found it appalling that no one asked me anything about how I feel. It is not so surprising though, especially knowing my family. I learned to accept them as they are. Not expecting the kind of support that they are unable to provide.
I quit my job a month ago. Voluntarily. And I am in midst of a career transition.
Leaving people, places, or a career behind is hard.
Doing altogether is the hardest thing I've ever done.
But I know that, without leaving things that do not serve well for us anymore, things that we have outgrown, we can not move forward towards what is waiting for us.
I embrace this change with grief and hope.
I go through this transition to see what it brings to me.
I trust the process.
Today was a tough day but it passed. It is still worth writing to not-so-good times as well as the great times.
And tomorrow will be a better one.
Image courtesy: The tree center