Today is my first expat anniversary. I landed in Belgium a year ago today. I think I can still remember what I wore on the plane, and I also remember the movie I struggled to watch while in-flight. I hadn't slept for about two days before, (which is why I was struggling to watch the movie.)
April 1st, my sister drove me to the airport. She cried all the way home after dropping me off. It wasn't just because we'd said goodbye though, it was because she'd never realized until picking me up at my apartment that day, exactly how MUCH stuff, much of it treasured, I'd left behind for this. My sister recalls all the books, and the cocktail dresses, I left behind. My mother was shocked to learn that a silver duck piggy-bank I'd had since childhood, and had held onto well past it losing an eye and it's bottom-plate also was left behind. The fact was I'd decided to store the things that would be most practical first, and I simply ran out of time and space in packing up the rest and trying to find it a place to wait for me.
I don't regret it though. There were some nice books, and some lovely, sentimental things that I'd spent a lifetime collecting. But moving here was very much like parting with all my creature comforts, and my friends. It opened up a blank space, and left me with a scary sparseness. There was very little comfort in the beginning, and I felt at times, rather like a lost and panicky deer in a sterile white plastic room. Confused and very ill at ease. It forced me to re-examine and question myself, to develop new coping skills, and it forced me to create, bit by bit, new comforts here.
I knew that coming here wouldn't be easy. Leaving everything for one thing never is, and in your moments of worry, going back to that everything seems a hell of a lot better than fighting for that one thing, that reason for being here. I thought it would be difficult, and it was. But I also thought I was probably a quick enough learner and tenacious enough to make the jump even when waiting another year or so might have been wiser, might have made the transition easier.
I can't say that a year in, all is well and that I've got it all down-pat. But looking back over my first year here, I can say that I'm glad I took this chance. I think it's given me and taught me much more than another year among my creature comforts possibly could have, and that's worth celebrating.