Friday, November 02, 2012

The day that really mattered

Seventeen years ago today, I arrived in New Zealand to stay. It was a day that changed everything, as I left my old life and country behind and began a new life in a new country. That makes today my Expataversary and also the day Nigel and I have always chosen as our anniversary (even though we have several to choose from…).

I re-read each of the six previous posts I’ve written about this anniversary (links to all of them are at the bottom of this post, and all the posts link to the years before them). It’s been a challenge to avoid repeating myself when talking about the same story each year: I took a risk, moved across the planet, things were rough at first, they got better, now they’re great, The End.

But what about before this story began? Because there was a “before”, after all.

I think it’s fair to say that most of the people I knew in 1995 thought I was crazy, not just for moving to New Zealand, but to do so to be with a man who, from their perspective, I “hardly knew”. In the early days, Nigel and I joked that if we broke up after ten years, people back in the US would still say, “See? I knew it wouldn’t last!” Of course, other people were highly supportive, whatever they thought privately.

Whether people were supportive or not, it was still a lot for me to deal with. On the day I left, October 31, 1995, as I sat waiting for my plane, I wrote in my journal:
The thing of it is that I feel a profound sense of loss… I’m giving up everything I have and everything I know. I didn’t realize how comfortable my life had become until I prepared to leave it behind.
That hints at some of the inner turmoil I was experiencing at that time, the excitement of the adventure mixed with the inevitable, “ohmygod, what am I doing?!” Not for the first time, I would “feel the fear and do it anyway”:
So, now it’s 4:45pm, I’m in the Red Carpet Club on “C” Concourse, awaiting my boarding time. I could at any minute change my mind, but I won’t.
In the end, this is what I want to do, this is what I need to do.
I’ve written, obliquely, about that sense of loss in previous years’ posts, and about how it passed (and it did). Getting over that feeling is helped, I think, when one is moving to something, rather than from something, as I’ve also said before. Plus, in my case, life turned out to be so much better than I could have imagined as I nervously waited for that flight.

I was lucky. I was moving to a great country, and I was moving to start what’s turned out to be the greatest adventure of my life with the man I was meant to be with. These are very good things, but best of all is, of course, Nigel. Every year I quote from a previous year, and last year I said of Nigel: “He is my rock, my centre, and—even sixteen years later—I’d move to the other side of the planet to be with him.” Make that seventeen years.

Becoming an expat isn’t simply a matter of, “hm, I think I’ll move to another country!” It’s a very serious thing, even when one isn’t moving to the other side of the world. But despite the fears, the worries and the hassles, it is sooooo worth it! For me, it all boils down to something I wrote three years ago: “Don’t assume that your dreams won’t come true, because you may be only one day away from the start of it all.”

Seventeen years ago today was, in so many ways, the day that really mattered. I would do it all again.

Posts from previous years:
Sweet sixteen
Lucky 13: Expataversary and more
Twelfth Anniversary
Eleven Years an Expat

Ex, but not ex-

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