Words and Pictures by Shirine Fergusson
I remember watching my husband, Andy, turning to me after his phone call ended and said 4 words that meant our lives would take a dramatic turn - "I got the job".
We had always fantasised about living abroad since we met 10 years ago but the opportunity to do so never arose or the timing was never right. That said, is there ever a right time to uproot your whole life and leave everyone you love behind to pursue a life with never-ending unknowns? Probably not, but here I sit, on our bed in New York City, it’s almost midnight and I’m 16,000km from home in Sydney Australia. My 2-year-old son, Hugo, who I look after full-time, is asleep next to me because he’s too scared to sleep in his new room, while Andy works at his new job tirelessly because that’s what New Yorkers do.
When you mention New York to anyone, their eyes light up, even if they've never been! It’s the city that never sleeps, the land of opportunity, the fashion capital, a concrete jungle full of glitter and glamazons; shopping and more shopping; architecture and art; celebrities, central park, lady liberty, Times square, 5th Avenue, fairies and unicorns! Ok, I know fairies don’t exist but I’m pretty sure I saw a unicorn walking down Broadway once. The truth is, living in New York is adventurous, exciting, rewarding and...challenging. It seems obvious that moving overseas is difficult and prior to moving I made myself very aware of the challenges by reading and taking advice from well-seasoned travellers, but nothing quite prepares you. How can it? You've never done it before.
The things that I thought were going to be hard were easy and the things that I thought were going to be easy were hard. Similarly, I found the things that I thought mattered, don’t matter and the things that I thought don’t matter, matter the most, like the value of people and friendships. It’s so easy to become familiar and take time with friends and family for granted. Now I’m living on the other side of the world with new surroundings and 8 million people I don’t know. Why is it that you realise these things too late? Sure, when you return, you can always try and "pick up where you left off" and although I love that saying, the truth is, you're going to miss a big chunk of their life. Yes, life will go on, routine will happen, people will go to work, they'll come home, they'll have birthdays, get married, have babies and then have more babies and although you try and keep up via technology, you were absent through most of it.
For me it’s a sad discovery to watch life back home from the sidelines. I can try my best to pretend I never left and not embrace my new life here but I know that will rob me and my family of a great adventure. I recently discovered that the adventure we envisioned for ourselves when we moved to New York is dictated by the choices we make. Making the choice to get up and explore, step out of your comfort zone, live in the moment, be productive, adjust to American culture, focus on the positives, oh..and make new friends, it’s all part of the challenge.
I recently met a woman here who said it took her 2 years to find people that she could call her true friends. All I can say is, it has taken effort to make new friends, especially when you have kids and the idea of a good night is going to bed at 7pm! I’m telling you, meeting new people, exchanging numbers, deciding if you should call them or wait till they call you, making dates to hang out, then deciding if you’re a friend match or delete them and get a new number… it reminds me of dating.
Making new friends is hard, but I’ve decided it’s imperative. I need people to do life with, to share life with and build relationships with, after all, I’ve discovered that people and relationships matter most in life which means I need to get off my butt and be more intentional about making connections.
Moving abroad has certainly taken us on a journey and partly an inward journey discovering myself and what I want for the future. Its forced me to refocus, recalibrate and find purpose in this new place. Maybe we could call this part 'the cocoon phase' where transformation is taking place. I just hope life doesn’t unveil a moth!