In 13 days my husband Navin and I are packing up everything in Australia and moving to San Francisco on secondment with his work (read more about it here). It’s been a whirlwind month as we’ve packed up our apartment and put it up for lease, attempted to sell our car (still available… interested?!) and begun to say goodbye to our incredible family and friends. Whilst most of the past four weeks have been filled with a lot of joy, excitement and anticipation of the life that’s to come in America, it’s also been scarred by a lot of grief, anxiety and tiredness which I have struggled to overcome. I don’t think anyone could quite prepare me for the intense rollercoaster of emotions that would come with moving our lives overseas, but in the way that I know best, the only way to move forward to a season of happiness and enthusiasm is to write and share about it.
If you’ve found this blog because you’re about to move overseas yourself, or maybe you’re just about to make a big change in your life, I hope this provides you with some guidance and reassurance!
STAGE ONE: THE REALISATION – “What is happening?!” (*Cue Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids*: video here.)
There is really no better way to express how it felt to realise my whole life was moving overseas than this classic clip from Bridesmaids: “Omg… Errr… Ahh.. Whaaaaaat is Happening?!” Suddenly it hit me that we weren’t just going away for a month overseas so my years of travel experience weren’t going to help me here and I had to approach this in a different way. Unfortunately my brain went into complete overdrive and did what every Gen Y does best: Google. I googled every possible good, bad and ugly thing about San Francisco just to get my head around the concept that yes, this is really happening and it wasn’t like anything I’d prepared for before. From “Rental stories from hell in San Francisco” to “things to do as a solo traveller in San Francisco” and the obvious: “can I get Tim Tams in San Francisco”, I googled everything and anything that might help my transition go smoothly. I now know a heck of a lot of stuff about the city I’m heading to and I feel like I could be a SF tour guide the moment I step foot off the plane, but I don’t think I’m really going to appreciate what is happening until I’m running around the Bay Area searching for Tim Tams and Milo and I’ve learnt, that’s okay.
STAGE TWO: BEING SENTIMENTAL -“I hope you’ve got San Francisco’s time in your phone… and you’ve downloaded Skype, right?”
My brain then went into the second phase of overdrive as it suddenly realised: I WON’T BE SEEING MY FAMILY & FRIENDS FOR TWO YEARS so I busily started booking every evening, morning and weekend possible to ensure I could cram in as many people as my diary allowed. I’ve had breakfasts and dinners, afternoon teas and drinks and have even squeezed some friends in by requesting we have a lunch at my work but then I got some really valuable advice from a colleague that I wish I’d heard weeks earlier. “Make sure you spend quality time with your family & friends but most importantly, tell them how you feel about them and their friendship.” I realised I’ve been so busy saying goodbye to as many people as possible (in fact I’m starting to feel a little bit like the Von Trapp children in this scene.) but not enough time appreciating people for who they are and what I’m going to miss about them. I have a terrible tendency to deal with awkward, difficult or nervous situations by laughing or telling jokes (just ask Navin, I giggled my way through his entire proposal) so instead of allowing myself to get sentimental with my friends, I’ve made some joke about Skype and time differences, given a brief hug and said a rather unemotional farewell. Whilst I’m pretty disappointed in myself for the way I’ve handled these goodbyes, I know I have 13 more nights to improve on, and some important advice to give because of it: it’s okay to be “lame” and sentimental – it’s an important part of a goodbye.
STAGE THREE: THE FAKE SPIEL – “Oh you know, I’ll just be a lady of leisure for a while and then I’m sure I’ll find a job soon after”
With all the farewelling we’ve been doing, I feel like I really should’ve recorded a spiel about our move and what I expect to be doing just to play whenever I’m asked. I’ve become a broken record with an answer that I’ve realised is actually masking something much deeper. “So, what will you be doing over there Caitlin?” “Oh you know, I’ll just be a lady of leisure for a while and then I’m sure I’ll find a job soon after” But in reality, I am FREAKING OUT because a) the thought of having leisure time by myself for 3 months is as appealing as getting my wisdom teeth out in the chair (been there, done that… ergh!) and b) I am extremely anxious about finding a job at all. So I want to apologise if I’ve given you the easy answer and haven’t really told you how I’m feeling. When someone asks what my hobbies are the first thing that comes to mind is hanging out with my friends… so realising that I’m heading to a place where I won’t initially have any friends is scary, confusing and overwhelming. I’m also feeling anxious because I attach so much of my self-worth to my job and though I’ve made so many jokes about my unemployment this week my head is screaming “WHO ARE YOU NOW?!” I don’t think this feeling is going to subside anytime soon, but I’ve learnt two really important things thanks to this stage. Firstly, it’s okay to feel nervous, anxious and unsure of what lies ahead, that’s all part of the experience, but don’t be afraid to be honest about that. Tell your friends when you have those moments of self-doubt, write down your concerns and an action plan for ticking off that gigantic moving to-do-list. This stage doesn’t last forever. Secondly, you are not your job. Whilst you may dedicate a solid part of your week to working, I’ve learnt that I’m still going to be ME without Baptist World Aid and not having a job for the next few months isn’t going to change that one bit 🙂 In fact this just gives me a whole pile of time to become a better me!
STAGE FOUR: OVERWHELMING EXHAUSTION – “I’m just going for a nap downstairs… see you in 30 mins”
Because my brain is running at what feels like 1000% capacity and I haven’t really allowed myself to be honest about my worries and concerns, I have been overcome by an overwhelming tiredness over the last couple of weeks. I’ve been trying to cram in so many farewells, wrapping up work and packing up our place that I’ve barely slept since we got the green light for America and my body is currently hating me for it. I’ve reasoned with myself that I could just sleep when I get there (after all, I’ve got my months of unemployment for that 😉 ) and to make the most of the time I have with people now, but instead I’ve just been in a zombie state for the last week or so which a) is making me a pretty ineffective employee and b) isn’t allowing me to really remember any of our farewells! I was so tired at work last week that I spent the last hour of the day in our quiet room downstairs (normally reserved for those who are actually sick!) just having a nap on the floor. Great move Caitlin… not! Maybe your approach is to “sleep when you get there” but if I can offer a little advice from my sleep-deprived self, allow yourself time to rest and just process everything that’s going on. Sure, you might have to cut down your time with friends or finishing packing up that box tomorrow, but trust me, go to bed as soon as your body tells you to, if not earlier. Though we’ve only got 13 days left, I want to get to bed at 10pm as much as possible in these last days so I can be fully engaged when we say goodbye 🙂 Keep me accountable!
STAGE FIVE: ALL-ENCOMPASSING GRIEF – “I don’t even know why I’m crying right now!”
Boy have there been a lot of tears in the past week. I feel like a menopausal pregnant woman all at the same time and seem to shed a tear at the mere whisper of the word “leaving”. Yet for some reason I’ve kept those tears to myself in most instances and that’s exactly what I’d like to warn you not to do. I’ve put on many brave faces and said goodbye a lot of times but as soon as I’ve jumped in the car the tears have come flooding out and my mind has filled with thoughts of everything I’m leaving behind, all the things I’ll miss out on and the anxiety that I’ll be replaced or forgotten. The grief has been all-encompassing and painful but in this I’ve learnt that I really need to share it with other people! It’s okay to feel grief, your life is changing in a BIG way! But again, don’t be afraid to share this with others! Talk about what you’ll miss doing together, but lock in a time you’ll be able to Skype regularly and catch up! And instead of thinking of all the things you’ll miss out on, think of all the things you have to look forward to – those tears will dry right up!
STAGE SIX: ACCEPTANCE – “I can do this!”
Though I haven’t fully reached this stage yet, I’m starting to follow my own advice and I’ve listed things I’m looking forward to in San Francisco. Yes I’ll miss my job, but I’ll eventually find a new one filled with new challenges and opportunities to learn. Yes I’ll miss some important life events of my family & friends but thanks to Facebook & Instagram I’ll be able to spend hours stalking photo albums and being a part of these events from a far. I know there is so much to look forward to in this move and though it may be shadowed by my grief and anxiety at the moment, I definitely can’t wait to delve into this adventure when I get there. My advice is to start planning things you can countdown to in your new city – book a concert ticket, find a nice restaurant to visit, see what exhibitions are on at a local museum. I know I’m looking forward to seeing Maroon 5 in San Jose next March! 🙂
STAGE SEVEN: EMBRACING THE NEW ADVENTURE: – “ California girls, we’re unforgettable…West Coast Represent, now put your hands up” – (*cue Katy Perry’s song* which has been on repeat in my brain this last month)
Despite the tiredness and sadness over the last few weeks I am SO ready to embrace my new life in California. Whilst I’m sure there’ll be many tears over our final days and a lot of homesickness once we get there, there’s no denying my excitement to embrace this new culture and experience everything it has to offer. From cheering on the Giants or 49ers, to sunbaking in Golden Gate Park and throwing y’all into my daily vocabulary, I can’t wait to become a California Girl, even if only for a couple of years. To get ready to embrace the culture, start reading about it, watching the TV shows and maybe even eating the food! Even get your friends involved too so they can be a part of your big move…Full House marathon anyone? 🙂
I hope these seven stages truly help you to prepare for the next big adventure in your life, or if you’re been with me on this journey over the last month I hope it’s helped explain some of my emotions!
Look forward to taking you into stage seven with me shortly… 13 days to go!