Archive for December, 2010

Love by Sandra Le

Every year I notice how it can take time for the Christmas spirit to really kick in. December comes and you think ornaments, presents, biscuits, tree and gourmet menus, but you still feel like you’re faking it. However it blooms slowly and then one day it suddenly happens, and you’re almost overwhelmed by the cheer.

Yesterday, we had one of the best presents we could wish for, Ed received a job offer for a site starting today. After a few weeks of uncertainty and trying to keep that chin up as best we could, it just happened, when we least expected it, as most good things do.

It felt like suddenly everything was coming together and the adventure could really begin. However today, I find that this thought is slightly unfair. We have been living quite a fantastic adventure since we left London in August. It’s always easier to be grateful when things work out according to plan, but what really makes it all worth it is the wait and the patience we’ve had before that. This is the real adventure, the rest is anecdotal. The ‘happy ever after’ is just one line of a 15 pages story. It’s just that everything shines brighter under the spotlight of achievement and we tend to instantly value success more than the hardship that preceded it. That tip of the iceberg  oversimplification: ‘it was so tough but we’ve made it’.

I had a brilliant yoga class three weeks ago and the teacher was bright, funny and inspiring. She had read an article about how we tell stories when we live a traumatic or memorable experience. Just after it happened, we tell the story for the first time. This narrative becomes the template for all subsequent times. After ten years, we still tell the same story and exaggerate it slightly more each time.

This is how we sometimes create our own narratives, we capture the facts in the emotions of the moment and no longer have to question either the emotions or the facts. I wonder how we will retell our first months here. We could probably stick to the November was a difficult time to arrive here story: businesses were slowing down before Christmas, the weather was grim, the odd were against us, etc. but suddenly it all worked out. Just another Cinderella tale.

Yes, it has been challenging at times but it was very normal, the uncertainty made it look worse than it was. An expat friend in San Francisco reminded me yesterday that it took him 7 months to find work.

Picture by Inigo Garcia Ureta

We read a lot of the stories in the British expats website. The other day a woman who had moved to Calgary was posting that she and her family wanted to go home after only 5 months. She was telling a Dickensian story of their experience here and said that they were seriously thinking of going back to the UK. The interesting thing is that lots of people got back to her and things got really intense on the forum. We could feel people had real strong feelings on her story.

Most people told her that 5 months was not enough to decide to go home and we agreed with this. When I moved to California 12 years ago, I hated it most days for over 6 months. When I had to go back to Europe after my one year visa had expired I was truly distraught, I didn’t want to leave. When we move to a new country we tell each other a lot of stories about what we are doing here. But I think it’s healthy to question them and see what kind of emotions really come with them.

My cat Charlie has travelled a lot because of my lifestyle. He hates travelling, he resents every bit of each trip, and every new place he goes to, but he has a feisty attitude to life. He’s a stubborn little beast, and anywhere he goes, after a week or so, he rules – that’s why he was kicked out of the cattery in August. Emigrating is not his thing at all, but he adapts and always finds a way to get what he wants, by sheer determination of getting his bit of tuna and the best spot on the sofa.

Picture by Inigo Garcia Ureta

I always thought that emigrating was my thing, which made me feel quite smug, when a few weeks ago, I was so homesick I would have jumped on the first plane back to Europe. Since being here I’ve wanted to feel at home, to look at the horizon, see the mountains and feel full of pride: ‘isn’t our city wonderful?’ I faked it most of the time, I knew I wasn’t quite there yet but tried hard, closing my eyes very tightly like little children make a wish before blowing out their first birthday candles.

This week I’ve being feeling that I didn’t have to fake it that much and try that hard any longer: I really like it here. Now we can rest safe in the knowledge that we will be able to stay for some time and there’s so much we haven’t seen yet!

and a bit of Sinatra to celebrate joy:

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