Keeping Your Nerve Up

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Dear Brightstar,

As you well know I have just moved again. I’m living in an entirely new city, continent, and hemisphere. Kampala is by all standards a very different city then Geneva.

Yesterday I felt alive with the possibilities of living here. Tonight I feel as though I am heartbroken and alone.

My nerves are raw. I am exhausted. It’s an ever shifting equilibrium. I get both thrills from the thought of living in this new city and I despair I will never fill the ache of friends I miss.

There are definitive benefits to living abroad.

“Loving life is easy when you are abroad. Where no one knows you and you hold your life in your hands all alone, you are more master of yourself than at any other time.” ~ Hannah Arendt

But this is balanced with heartache.

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Unknown

In the meantime, you need to absorb new routines and overwhelming changes while mourning the life you choose to leave elsewhere. Especially, the people you choose to leave behind.

I know I choose this change just as I keep choosing a lifestyle of leaving places and people. But some nights its difficult to sleep with this choice.

But there seems to be nothing to it but to keep going.

The skills I will need to cultivate in order to live a life ‘persistently abroad‘—-by which I mean I keep choosing to move abroad despite my distress at starting over— will need to be: tenacity, patience with myself, courage, and good humor that feeds into a adventurous spirit.

I am here now and I will build a life in Kampala. It will never be the life I lead at home, or that I had in Geneva, but it will certainly be an adventure. With some patience and persistence, I think I can flourish here despite missing what I’ve built before.

All the best from my new home to be,

Keatsway

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Transience

Summerdandelions

Dear Keatsway,

I’m in transition. In fact I’ve been living out of suitcases and boxes for the past three months, and I still haven’t found a permanent residence. Everywhere I’ve lived since July has been short term, and in a few short days it will be October (the month that I promised my current flatmate I would definitely be gone). Yet I still don’t know when the magic moment will arrive where I find an apartment in the right location at the right price with just enough amenities and natural lighting that I can see myself calling it home for the next 12 months.

The temporality of my living situation has made it hard to find anything I need, let alone feel settled. A few months ago I was accepted into two graduate schools of choice in the United Kingdom. Weeks ago I received the news (staggered by a few fortnights) that my tuition would be fully covered by either American or Canadian student loans. One month ago I decided to defer (due to lack of cost of living funds). Today I have officially deferred at my second school of choice as well. It feels real now. The dream has been deferred and the reality of the day-to-day in my ordinary job without the comfort of my sanctuary or a place to truly make my own has been unsettling, upsetting, and startling (and dare I say it–depressing).

As a matter of what I deemed to be absolutely necessary at the time (to open up the possibility of studying abroad, I needed to end all rent contracts), I broke my lease in May.  The lease of my apartment that I had loved for three years to do something that I would love more than any possession. Near the end of July I moved out my furniture, although I had physically moved out at the beginning of the month. When an opportunity arouse to house sit in an upscale neighborhood and get paid, I couldn’t turn it down, especially when I needed everything I could get to put in my savings account for England.

A middle aged couple, professors by trade, did research in Berkeley, while I watered plants and watched over their house  (and their cat had it not been put down the day before they left). It was marvelous month that made the reality of my move unbelievable as I moved out of my 670 square feet apartment into a house easily four times the size situated on an acre of land. I stayed in a master bedroom in a king sized bed and I ate breakfast every morning looking out at three different types of roses. I picked fresh tomatoes and herbs from the garden and hosted several garden parties with friends on their back deck. When my father visited, he had a room to himself and dozens of areas to read the books he brought with him: the deck, the sunroom, the study, the dining room…

It was a dream come true while it lasted. Then the harsh reality that nothing was permanent reared its head, as I cleaned the house, made the beds, and took out the laundry and moved into the basement of a friend’s duplex, greeted by the dozens of boxes and furniture parts I had relocated there with my father weeks earlier. Instead of a Pottery Barn master Suite I would face a room littered with about 50 dead and alive bugs in what was clearly not intended to be a bedroom but instead basement storage space.  I was resourceful and called up a few friends to help me set up my temporary bedroom that week, after the room had been sprayed for bugs and thoroughly cleaned.

Now I am settled, my house-mate and I have reached a certain currency in our interactions that is neither too warm or too cold, friendly yet detached. This is not the way either one of us wants to live any longer than we have to.

Image by Carli Jeep from Unsplash

It’s nearing the point in my journey where I feel quite discouraged and disconnected. My dreams loom before me as unattainable and unreal. I can’t handle another year of isolation and displacement at work. Yet this is my reality. I long for the leisurely mornings on the balcony of my old apartment with my own mugs, and cutlery (there is simply not enough room for my dishes and my roommates, so I’ve been using hers since August) looking out onto the world from a place I felt that been molded and shaped by my personality. Now I awaken as a guest who has overstayed her welcome, in an apartment without a balcony and almost no natural lighting. There are four suitcases sprawled across the floor of my bedroom, and my 1970s curtains block windows where bugs creep in land on my blanket. I have visited three potential apartments, and I had two other apartments I meant to see rented out before I could view them. I have called more than twice as many places as have called me back and easily spent every day scrolling through every apartment website in town.

Keatsway, I write here with no answers or revelations, but with the hope that the next time I write it will be from the balcony of my new apartment.

Yours with best wishes (and prayers for patience and fortitude),

Brightstar

P.S. Keatsway maybe this is cheating but I just found this draft today (from September 27) and realized I’d never posted it.  As an update I am now in my 550 square feet apartment (since mid October) with a remodelled balcony that looks out on a hill. I watch the sunrise every morning above this hill as I make breakfast with my own cutlery  and drink hot lemon water out of my own mugs. I am grateful every day to be here in a room of my own.

How to Move

Dear Brightstar,

I’ve reached Geneva, my new home for the subsequent months as I take up an internship here.

Two weeks ago I thought I would be prepared to suitably begin a life here with ease. I have traveled farther and to more difficult places than Europe, surely Geneva would be least problematic

The universe however, persists in seeking  balance.  I have found myself  subject to far greater culture shock here then any past travel in Asia, Africa or South America. A combination of jet lag, adjustment to city life and a fondness for home, hearth and the friends I left is making this adjustment  difficult.

It will take longer then expected to adjust and meet the pace of this city but I am still grateful that the issues that do come up are easily solved with  time and patience.

So even with this less then energetic start to my new life, I feel I can offer some lessons garnered from this transition.

My formula for keeping moving (whether to a new life or to keep your life in-motion) are:

Patience. Self-compassion. Flexibility.  Luck (take the chances given and keep a eye out for chance itself).

This advice holds the keys to all transitions. They are absolutely necessary and yet the most difficult to achieve in times of struggle and change. I recommend them to you my dear friend Brightstar as you deal with your Holy Tussle.

With the tools we are given we must try and change our worlds one patient, self-compassionate step at a time.

With good wishes and sincere love,

Keatsway