This time 18 months ago I was living with my lovely boyfriend of seven years and our dog.
I had a steady income and great friends. I had just turned 30 and by societal standards, I really should have felt settled.
But the permanence of my day-to-day, the same routine, began to feel like I was living a life that wasn’t mine. I felt suffocated by questions about marriage and babies.
I struggled to keep up with the small talk at the park with the other dog walkers. My favourite take-away didn’t taste like anything. I stopped laughing at my favourite shows.
I stared at myself in the mirror every morning wondering who the hell was looking back at me.
For weeks, I suffered from the worst panic attacks I had ever experienced in my life. One moment I would be cooking breakfast and the next I’d be screaming for an ambulance because I couldn’t breathe. I was exhausted, because I was living a life that was expected of me.
I was also terrified of the future because I could already see it right in front of me.
So, in an act of stupidity (to some) and bravery (to a select few), I completely uprooted my life in April 2019 and moved halfway across the world to America to start all over again.
I moved in with my grandmother in a very small town in Georgia. Thankfully, my job as a freelancer allowed me to work from anywhere and due to my dual nationality I didn’t need to bother with visa applications.
She had recently lost her third husband, so we settled into our newly-single lives, watching American Idol and eating bags of microwave popcorn every night.
This slow-paced way of life gave me a lot of space to think, which was both a blessing and a curse. I was 4,000 miles away from my support system: my parents, my best friends, my colleagues.
Suddenly I found myself alone, almost all the time. Nothing slaps you in the face quite like the silence of reality.
I had to relearn everything about myself again.
Being tethered to a partner for most of my twenties, I had submerged myself in the ‘girlfriend’ role. Don’t get me wrong, it was never all bad but what it did mean was that I had to get to know the parts of myself that were lost to expectations. And these parts weren’t always pretty.
I cried most nights, I stopped sleeping, I began to hate my own company. It wasn’t until I truly faced things head on that I began to relax.
I learned how to live in the moment and to appreciate every emotion, even if it was a tough one to swallow.
After a month, I travelled to upstate New York and stayed with a few friends before settling in the city of Hudson (population 6,144). With one suitcase, I moved in with someone I didn’t know.
I got a part-time job booking music at the local book store. I bought bits and bobs from the local Goodwill to try and make my room feel like mine.
Granted, the grass hasn’t always been greener over here. The weight of what I gave up back home sometimes sits on my chest for weeks.
Navigating time differences doesn’t really get any easier and I can go days without speaking to friends or family in the UK. I feel especially lonely when an American imitates my accent or doesn’t understand my quick-witted sarcasm.
I started going to improv classes and met some of the earnest and most brilliant people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. I continued with self-exploration through meditation and breathwork. I had some poetry published for the first time. I stopped having panic attacks.
Coronavirus has, of course, interrupted life in a way that I never expected. I was supposed to be visiting my family and friends in the UK back in April but that was quickly cancelled, replaced by a limbo-like reality that’s unpredictable and often overwhelming.
Who knows when I’ll be able to see them next? I’ve had to adapt and spend more time alone than ever before. It’s a steep learning curve.
Moving halfway across the world forced me to make time for myself to truly understand what it means to live the life I want.
Now, when I look in the mirror, I recognise the person staring back at me.
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