At the beginning of this year, my partner and I moved to a new country.
A country I had been to once 15 years ago, to a city I had only seen in photographs.
It was the most daunting adventure of my life to say the least, and when we initially floated the idea of making the move, there were questions from our friends and family.
Why? Why now? What are you going to do there? What if it doesn’t work?
All fair questions, and ones we didn’t always have answers to, but in the end we threw caution to the wind and took the plunge.
It’s been nearly two months now, and the journey has been a thousand times more incredible, difficult, exciting, and heartbreaking than I ever imagined.
I knew of course that I would miss my family, my friends, my coworkers, and all the people we were leaving behind, but I didn’t realize how much. At times here I have felt those feelings of loss so much more viscerally than I ever have before.
Leaning on each other for comfort and support works a lot of the time, but other times, it’s my Mum’s assurances, or a friend’s tight hug that I find myself wanting.
Being in a country where a handful of people know your name, and all of them just learned it, has been a daunting hill to climb, especially as an extrovert like myself.
I had committed myself to toughing it out though, to working through the ache in my heart, and to keep looking forward towards all the wonderful moments to come. I thought that leaving my home behind meant that I also needed to leave my strong attachments to it behind, and that acting like my friends and family could be there in the same way as they had been before would only lead to more hurt down the road.
Then, something changed.
After a few weeks of concerted searching, my partner got a job! We found out the day before he was supposed to start that it required him to have a specific set of clothes for a while until his uniform came in. Having almost none of the items they asked for, and a matter of hours before shops closed, we set out immediately.
That’s when we remembered that our best friend had given us for Christmas a gift card to a department store in the UK. We had been saving it for a moment of need like this.
The gift card meant that an expensive but necessary expense didn’t end up breaking the bank. More than that, it meant that although the three of us were no longer living in the same place and seeing each other very frequently, she was still looking out for us like she always had.
I felt so strongly for the first time since being here that although I was 3,317 miles away from virtually every person we knew, our friends and family were still there for us, and supporting us though this journey.
After that I started to notice all the little ways our friends and family had made an impact on our lives over here.
I thought about the Toronto landmarks tote bag from Kensington Market that friends of ours had given us as a going away present. It had become our go-to reusable shopping bag for groceries, an indispensable item on our shelf.
I thought about the texts my Mum sends us every day, containing a photo of the page-a-day Jeopardy calendar my partner had got her for Christmas. They had become a little nudge every morning that said “thinking about you”.
I thought about how my dad had given us, in the final hours before we got on the plane, his own travel money belt, which was a lifeline for us in the first few days before we got settled into a safe place. That feeling of knowing exactly where our passports and cash were at all times took an enormous weight off our shoulders.
I thought of how a few weeks before we left, my partner’s family had asked if we could send them an email once a month to let them know what we’d been up to (they aren’t on social media). The monthly emails have become such a source of joy for us, and give us the opportunity to reflect back on all the wonderful things we’ve done and seen recently.
Reflecting on all that, I felt so much less lonely realizing how much our loved ones back home were still looking out for us, still caring for us, and showing us so much love even so far away.
In some ways, I almost feel closer to my friends and family than I have in the past few years since leaving university.
Everyone talks about how difficult it is to keep in touch with people once school ends and real life begins, but the struggle to keep relationships going is real.
This move prompted us to reconnect with friends that we otherwise might not have had the time to see, and let us prioritize as much family time as we could squeeze in to the months before we left.
Since arriving here we’ve received countless kind messages from people we were never that close with before, and our family and friends have been reaching out more and more.
We knew this journey wasn’t going to be easy, but now I know that we aren’t going it alone.
In a million tiny ways, our friends and family are still showing us the love, even if they aren’t here to say it.