The six stages of leaving your country of birth. Part 1.

Now that I am in my new home, more than 9000 km away from (almost) everyone and everything I hold dear, and still very much in the throes of this rollercoaster journey, I often reflect on the multi-faceted emotional aspects accompanying my decision to take the leap. The decision to uproot your life is never an easy one, but every person is different, and this is just the account of one girl who surrendered to the Viking blood in her veins and set out on the journey of her life from the tip of Africa to the heart of Europe.

Stage 1: Hope

Some of my reasons for leaving South Africa probably mirror those of many other South African expats, and will come as no surprise. The fear of violent crime (I have had a number of personal encounters which I doubt I will ever fully recover from psychologically), the uncertainty of the political climate, the at times shaky economy and sliding healthcare and educational systems… but another (perhaps more important) aspect was the growing and uneasy feeling that I just didn’t belong. I am not part of the growing number of white South Africans who are convinced that there is a genocide of white South Africans underway, or that they are an oppressed minority. In fact it sickens me to see that in such an obviously unequal society, these people still do not acknowledge their privileges, nor do they utilize these advantages to better the lives of those who are not so lucky. On the other hand there are a number of black individuals who tell me to go back to Europe (and I don’t blame them for their anger). Should I have stayed and tried harder to make a difference? I believed that I could for a while. But engaging both sides made me feel more and more disillusioned as time went on. It was then that I started a journey of introspection and hoping to find somewhere I could belong, and a place where I would feel comfortable having a family. Over time, I just didn’t want to stay anymore and made that clear to family and friends. I wanted out, desperately.

Stage 2: Excitement

Over the last few days I have often thought back to remember the day my current boss sent me a text saying that a position had opened up for me and asking if my husband and I would move to Germany. The next few seconds were pure elation, I remember looking down at my little Yorkshire Terrier who was wagging his tail and looking up at me quizzically and saying to him “You’re going to be a German doggie!”

Life is never that simple though, and I quickly discovered that this stage would be short-lived when I discussed the opportunity with my husband, who made it clear that he wouldn’t stand in my way but that he was not ready to leave. We were at an impasse. If I stayed I would resent him and if he left he would resent me. A long-distance marriage seemed like the only way for two strong-willed independent people to (ironically) stay together. We agreed to put a two year time limit on this decision.

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