I'm a little stubborn. I don't like to admit when I'm feeling weak or that homesickness affects me, but it does. I've met people who still experience it years into their adventures, so knowing it's completely normal makes the anxiety ease up. I've also learned this anxiety is different for everyone. It has its own pace of getting worked out. I never moved away for college, so when I started to do a little self-help Googling this "homesickness" word, a lot of what I found was 18-year-olds going off to college or how, as a parent of a college freshman, you could help. Well, I'm not 18, so here's my little struggle:
Joining Jon in the UAE was the easiest and hardest decision of my life.
I get to be with my favorite person every day? I get to travel with him, grab dinner with him and go to the grocery store with him? WITH....HIM......? Sign me up, sounds so easy!
Ok, so I have to go talk to my boss and try not to cry (I SO cried), leave my job I worked so hard to get, leave the greatest group of friends, leave my amazingly close family? Oh my god, so hard.
There's nothing that could have prepared me for this transition. My last few months in Georgia felt like a whirlwind and I wanted nothing more than for it to slow down. In between office hours, I was selling my car, purging my possessions and trying to soak in every moment with the people I love. It went by too fast, but in the end it all happened at the right time. I'm a firm believer in the fact that everything happens for a reason. Everything always works out. The person that taught me that is my best friend on the planet, my mom. Through every childhood move, she was my counselor letting me know it's okay to cry, get the feelings out and carry on knowing that even if the present day wasn't the best day, it WILL get better. She was always right and the better days actually came a lot quicker than I expected every time.
Five months in, here is what helps me:
1. Starting out as a tourist - we hit the ground running. Jon was so great about taking me to his favorite spots, meeting his friends and seeing the sights of our city. We don't have a car, so we're always passengers, and I even think that makes it a bit easier to pay attention to where you are. Now I feel like I can navigate this city like a boss and I sure do boast that tidbit out loud whenever I can. Just don't put me behind the wheel. The drivers here are insane.
2. Keep busy - I'm the queen of routine, so even without a job lined up, my days are pretty well occupied. I'm planning a wedding 8,000 miles away, I'm "workin' on my fitness", I'm always mapping out our next trip, I cook a lot more, I'm hosting family that flies in, I'm reading books...for pleasure! And more recently, I've convinced myself to learn a new language. Lastly, it was my desire to make our home feel like home. This took some trips to Ikea, some DIY crafts and a very memorable rug shopping experience at the souk - all well worth the time, energy and language barriers to relax in a little apartment we love.
3. Constantly keep in touch with everyone - my mom moved to England in the 80's with a toddler. My grandmother moved to Morocco as a newlywed in the 50's. I come from a long line of strong women who had far less forms of communication than I have. Technology really is the best thing ever - I don't even feel like I miss much of a beat with social media, Skype and iMessage. The women before me couldn't afford to go home when they wanted and long distance phone calls were a special and very expensive occurrence. Needless to say, I don't really feel like I'm on the other side of the world, and I know I'm within 24 hours of travel away if I absolutely have to get back.
4. Thank you, Apple TV - having familiar shows readily accessible is like...GOLD. If you're one of those people who likes to spout out that TV is for idiots or "oh I'm far too busy to watch shows", then fine, we probably aren't that good of friends. But I love it and I don't care if it melts my brain. I neeeeeeed my Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Project Runway, Fixer Upper, The Bachelor, Good Morning AMERICA. The list goes on and on: go ahead, judge me. Jon is a master of the internet and has figured out how to make this little magic box work across the seas. I am forever grateful for this comfort. He's also reaping the benefits of ESPN whenever he wants and enjoys binge watching Vikings on the History Channel. Ok, we both do!
5. Travel - Jon and I share this passion, thank the Lord above. It's part of what drives us to work so hard. I can honestly say I've been saving since my part-time job in high school and this nice cushion made living abroad possible and to this day makes traveling within a budget relatively easy. Some women buy designer handbags, I buy plane tickets. I also like designer handbags, but I'm too lazy to switch purses - it's a process! So, we get out there and explore the world around us. It's pretty easy to do from here, we're kind of in the middle of everything and it takes my mind off the fact I'm missing Georgia at times.
Homesickness is weird thing - it hits you out of nowhere sometimes and that's okay. It gets easier with time and if you want to cry because you miss Panera, Chick-fil-A, Firehouse Subs, Whole Foods, Taqueria del Sol, wait....these are all foods. If you want to cry because you miss tumble dryers, outlets in your bathroom, DISHWASHERS...that's okay too. Yeah, America. First world problems. Enjoy those conveniences.
I wouldn't trade coming out here for anything. I've grown as an individual in such a short time and we've grown as a couple talking through some of the hardest moments life hands you. Nothing else matters when you have that kind of partnership. Outside of Jon, I meet people all the time who did this on their own as well and I instantly know that their story is one I'm curious about. Picking up and moving to a foreign country especially on your own takes a huge amount of bravery, confidence and character and I'm lucky to be meeting these positive influences.
I'll conclude with this excerpt from Brooklyn, a book I read when I first arrived here. I still haven't seen the movie because I'm afraid I will ugly cry through the whole thing, but the book alone was the therapy I didn't even know I needed.
"She had already packed one case and hoped, as she went over its contents in her mind, that she would not have to open it again. It struck her on one of those nights, as she lay awake, that the next time she would open that suitcase it would be in a different room in a different country, and then the thought came unbidden into her mind that she would be happier if it were opened by another person who could keep the clothes and shoes and wear them every day. She would prefer to stay at home, sleep in this room, live in this house, do without the clothes and shoes. The arrangements being made, all the bustle and talk, would be better if they were for someone else, she thought, someone like her, someone the same age and size, who maybe even looked the same as she did, as long as she, the person who was thinking now, could wake in this bed every morning and move as the day went on in these familiar streets and come home to the kitchen, to her mother and Rose.
Even though she let these thoughts run as fast as they would, she still stopped when her mind moved towards real fear or dread or, worse, towards the thought that she was going to lose this world for ever, that she would never have an ordinary day again in this ordinary place, that the rest of her life would be a struggle with the unfamiliar."
If there's one thing I've learned, it's to fight the fear. Take the leap! You're never going to lose your world just by exploring another part of it. Your unfamiliar days will become your new normal and if you're really lucky, you get to share those ordinary days with someone you love and someone who is worth every risk.