When I told friends my plan to move away to California for a while a few of them said I should keep a video diary and upload weekly updates to let them know how I was getting on. The idea of talking about myself to little green light made me cringe so badly that they’ve had to make do with Skype and FaceTime, but I did keep a weekly journal so I could look back and see how many challenges I’ve faced and hurdles I’ve overcome – as well as all the fun stuff that comes with moving to a new country. It’s 6 months to the day since I left London so it seemed the perfect time to take a little look back….
I’ve got to be honest, that last week in London was agony. Though it was late January, London has never seemed more beautiful and I’ve never loved it more (despite being totally frustrated by it in the preceding 4 years). I spent most of January catching up with dear friends, hanging out with family and snuggling with my beloved dog; why the hell would I want to leave all this?? I had to keep reminding myself that that place in time was a bit of an augmented reality, I wasn’t working so my days were free to indulge in whatever I wanted, my friends and I weren’t bailing on lunches or dinners because we knew it would be a long while before we could hang out again.
Everyone around me was so excited for me, but I was frozen in a state of sheer terror; a fist of nausea held my stomach in a tight knot and I seriously questioned the sanity of my decision. What the fuck was I thinking, leaving work, friends and family to move to the other side of the world? Thankfully my friends and family were amazing, especially my mum, practically kicking me out the door as I wailed like a banshee.
So why was I doing it? I’ve spent quite a few holidays in the US and always felt a pull to live here at some point, but this was particularly heightened after my accident, the wheelchair access is light years ahead of the UK and I can’t deny the appeal of dropped kerbs, lifts & ramps everywhere, huge accessible bathrooms and 250+ days of sunshine per year.
I felt a need to make some changes in my life, my friends were largely all settling down with partners and children or thriving in incredibly successful careers and I felt stuck and stagnant. It was like I was stuck in thick mud and couldn’t move forward, I felt suffocated; I had just come to the end of years of studying and training to qualify as a solicitor and I finally had an open road in front of me, one on which I could navigate the direction.
It seemed like the right time to make the move, I’m fortunate to have the requisite visa so there was nothing holding me back, other than myself and my good friends fear and self loathing. The certainty I had felt a year previous had vanished, in the last 3 months before I left I was like a baby trying to cling to the safety of her mother’s womb; without the support and encouragement of my family I’m sure I would have bottled it.
So, here I am, 6 months later in my apartment, it’s 95 degrees outside and I can see palm trees and the top of Mulholland Drive from my window. Any regrets? Only that I didn’t let myself enjoy the moments before I left, in those last few weeks I wish I could have felt the excitement that my friends were feeling for me, all I felt was terror, I kept expecting to see Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ reflecting back at me in the mirror.
There have been a few bumps in the road since then, not least the one that has me recuperating from surgery, more on that in a future post, but I’ve definitely started on the adventure I was seeking. Admittedly it’s not quite as care free as I had imagined in my head, turns out no matter how far you move, you do still bring a certain amount of baggage with you.