17 May 2010

My Californian Psycho-Babble

In no particular order, stressful life upheavals include mariage, parenthood, divorce, redundancy, moving house and death of a loved one. When relocation implies moving abroad and starting a completely new life away from the familiar boundaries of the comfort zone, stress levels are guaranteed to shoot up through the roof (on a par with the adrenaline kick) to attain new heights and test your endurance. In other words, no matter how appealing the prospect of a new life abroad seems, the process is no plain sailing, although - should you be able to afford it - assistance from professional relocators (as seen on TV documentaries) will provide countless benefits!


Source: Museyon, 21/07/10

The end result though is supposed to be worthwhile: you will embrace the potentialities of life, while being stretched onto a journey of self-discovery, through the tortuous paths of self-doubt, with self-imposed patience, discipline and focus dominated by an iron will to succeed, without forgetting your saving grace: a good dose of self-deprecation in the face of adversity.

I first moved abroad, to Britain, slightly over 16 years ago. An idealist, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I was young and keen, straight out of university, and willing to have a go at things, take a risk, find out more about my capabilities and make a name for myself, away from family pressures and expectations. Looking back - and from a comfortable emotional and geographical distance - the journey of self-discovery was probably worth it, but the road to survival was paved with a number of material and logistical difficulties that hypothetically - in my mind - might have been softened if I had chosen to stay put, in my country of origin, whose quirky ways and turns I would have been familiar with from the word 'go' (or so I thought), and whose crippling Kafkaian bureaucracy I would have breezed through in a song (or so I thought).


Source: Garance Doré, Une Vie à New York

Soon I developed a black and white appreciation of sorts. If things in my life were good, I loved Britain; if problems cropped up, I blamed Britain. The relationship went beyond the 'like-dislike' rapport, it was more of a Liz Taylor-Richard Burton relationship: love-hate and consuming. And France was never going to be the solution to this, because by then I had sussed out that if geography merely influences the general state of mind, it does not provide answers, respite and happiness, as personal issues and the grander ones such as 'the meaning of life' run deeper. If you are not happy in your life, within yourself, no matter the place on earth, the solution will have to be found within you, not on the outside.

To those of you contemplating a move overseas in order to start a new life, my humble advice is that it shouldn't mean running away from any existing problems, emotional luggage or dissatisfation in life. You should start your journey with that simple question: what is my reason for leaving? You should also be realistic: how much of a new life will you be able to afford? The dream place comes with a gilded price tag! The good news is that Britain's high cost of living should have already prepared you, and the sale of a property bought in Britain will stretch you further when translated onto the foreign property market (unless you are vying for expensive countries like Japan or Iceland, or keen to move a few notches up the property ladder). However if you start a new life abroad with no collateral (like I did when I moved to Britain), be prepared for the hard graft!


Rewind 16 years and in December 2009, I embarked on a (not-so-familiar-anymore) journey, a one-way trip back to the motherland, this time with my English partner and our doggie companion. Moving back home should have been easy-peasy-lemon-squeasy, but what if, after 16 years, home didn't feel quite like home anymore?

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