Call me crazy, adventurous or naïve as I decided to uproot my entire life from the place I had grown up and called home, Leeds in England, leaving behind my loving family, inspirational friends and stimulating career. Yes, I left the frequent grey skies and cool weather of England to start a new whirlwind adventure with my wonderful man in the cosmopolitan and eclectic city, Melbourne. That’s correct, I like many other 150,000 individuals each year, decide to move across seven oceans, from one end of the world to the other, from the known to the unknown, to start something new.
I made the decision very quickly to move, even though my partner, originally from Australia was happy for us to live together in the UK. I have to admit, my mother had a lot to do with my decision to move. Not that I wanted to escape from her, the complete opposite in fact, if it had been in my hands, I would have brought her with me in a shot. She however, was the guiding light in my life at that time. She encouraged me to explore, travel the path of uncertainty and unravel the wealth of opportunities that could be.
I never for a moment sat down and considered the reality of moving to the other side of the world – sounds bizarre I know! I was excited at the prospect of being in a sunny climate and amongst stunning beaches. I never knew what it would be like to have no one know me in a country I had never visited, to have no friends, no job, no cent to my name or even know where to shop or even get my hair done.
Despite all this uncertainty, I have to admit the first few weeks were great fun, lots to see, new people to meet and plenty to explore. My partner was great at introducing me to his friends, showing me around and helping me feel part of his familiar world. The thing was I actually didn’t feel a ‘part’ for a very long time.
I suddenly started to feel a real sense of loneliness, social isolation and a sense of separation anxiety. Modern technology such as Skype and Facebook were good ways for me to stay connected with my nearest and dearest. But due to the time difference, I had to wait eleven hours to be able to pick up the phone and call someone I knew and most importantly who knew me. It got to the point where I was counting down the hours to be able to connect with family and friends on the other side of the world, the place I always had known as home.
This was when I had a wake up call and I became conscious that I was investing so much time in holding onto my former life, friendships and routine. Although I had made the physical transition to Australia, I certainly had not made the psychological move. My attention and focus was on my deep sense of loss, loss of family, friends, work, emotional bonds and the loss of familiarity and everyday ‘rootedness’. I realised I was longing for a sense of belonging and wanted to quickly fill the emptiness I used to often feel in Melbourne. The easiest way for me to fill this vacuum of ‘emptiness’, was to revert back to what I knew and who I knew, even if these bonds were thousands of miles away. I carried on this way for several months until one day I woke up and I thought I can not do this anymore. I was feeling very mentally drained and exhausted. I felt empty and lonely and I knew I could not keep going on like this – something needed to change, and it was only me that could change it!
This is when I realised I was really living in two places at once. Physically, I had made the transition to Australia, but psychologically I was still back in England. Wow – this was a real significant moment for me – I needed to create a ‘mind-set shift’. I then started to undertake a lot of research into this topic and learnt that my feelings and psychological state were typical of many migrants. In particular, one researcher, Narchal (1997) referred to migration as the ‘deconstruction and reconstruction of the self’. I explored this further and recognised for me to make the mental shift, my mindset, motivations and emotions to my new life in Australia, had to change. I did the following things to help me:
- became prepared to loosen the reigns on my former life in the UK (although never wanting to let go)
- started to acknowledge and become aware of how I was feeling
- became open to develop friendships and experiences in Melbourne
- continually invest time and energy in building my new sense of identity and belonging in Melbourne.
To do this I started to be active in connecting with others, proactively initiating coffee catch ups, getting to know the city and what was going on. I decided to learn something new about my new home each day and also share a part of myself with my new world each day, so I would start to feel like I belonged.
I have to admit once I changed my attitude and realised for me to be truly happy in my new world, I had to ensure my physical self and psychological self were in the same place at the same time.
Many of my clients have also migrated to Australia too and have experienced similar psychological adjustment issues and as soon as they have realised they too are living in two places at once, they were also able to make this shift.
The more we can bring the whole of ourselves into one place at one time, the more we can be energized, productive and really experience the sense of ‘living’ rather than mere ‘existing’. If you have recently migrated or had a significant change in your life, I hope this blog helps you reach inner peace and fulfillment in your life, quicker than I had.