It requires a lot of bravery to move abroad. The obvious reason for this is that you are uprooting yourself from your routine, your friends, your job, your finances and your idea of stability to enter an unknown space full of unknown people and unknown outcomes. However, after my time living and working in Canada, the most difficult experience for my mental health has been the adjustment back to life in the UK. This may seem like a wild statement considering I moved all by myself to a new country where I knew nothing and no one. Surely, that had more of an impact on my sanity? However, the truth is, I had never felt more isolated than when I first came back to my home country.

Given these feelings, the question people often ask me is why did I leave Canada? Primarily, I knew I did not want to settle in the life I had built while I was there. I wanted more opportunity and direction than I had doing minimum wage jobs in random sectors with very little opportunity for those on working holiday visas to broaden their scope unless they obtain PR (a long process and a big financial investment). My only experience was in teaching and this was not something I could do in Canada due to my lack of qualifications to teach in Canadian schools.

Truthfully, I panicked about my life, my prospects and my stability.

I know I am not the only one who has felt this.

It is hard to be an immigrant.

On top of this anxiety, I had been through a difficult ending of a relationship and I was mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted. I craved being in an environment which was comforting and familiar and where I didn’t feel like an outsider. In my mind, this was home in the UK. I was desperate to be embraced and understood.

The reality? I could not fit into the life I had previously lived in the UK because I had become disconnected. Moving away from your home country broadens your whole perspective and, without realising, you absorb the rhetoric, the systems and lifestyle of another culture. It becomes a part of the collage of your identity. In my case, this was more outwardly demonstrated by my hybrid accent and the fact that I now can’t seem to shake using the word ‘bathroom’ instead of ‘toilet’.

So, what have I learnt from this difficult adjustment process? It has taken a lot of reflection, some grief and an abundance of support from loved ones across the world to realise these three key lessons.

Lesson 1: some relationships aren’t meant to last and some connections surpass time and distance

I found it a strange feeling realising that I could no longer relate and connect with some of my friends in the UK. I expected to come back home and communicate with people in the same way but I have come to accept that we are all moving in different directions with different life experiences. These relationships weren’t always going to last. However, this fact has also made reuniting with my best friends here so magical as it is clear that no matter where I have been or how long I have been away, I feel immediately at home with them.

As well as this, it is a blessing to now have such wonderful friends from across the world. Bearing in mind that I only met some of these people once or twice, it is truly incredible that no matter the time zone, we take time to check in and encourage each other.

Lesson 2: it is hard to fit back into the spaces you have outgrown and that is good

What is belonging? What is identity? How does it shift when you enter new spaces? There are so many Instagram influencers who share content about the experience of not feeling at home in your home country when you have left and it is a truth I have come to experience. When you have seen so much beyond the bubble of where you were born, when you have met people from all over the world, that process leaves a mark on who you are and how you operate. You gain perspective and this is one of the most rewarding aspects of travel and the reason I love it so much. However, not fitting in is a very difficult emotional experience for me. As a people pleaser to my core, my life has often centred around fitting in and being accepted by others. So, when I returned to live in the Lake District, with a slight Canadian twang and absolutely clueless about my direction, it was really really tough.

However, I have learned that this feeling of not fitting in is also destiny pushing me to make courageous choices. The idea of moving to Japan or Mexico or Austria or New Zealand doesn’t feel as intimidating anymore because I can’t fit back into the life I left and maybe that is a blessing. A sign from the universe. My path is different and I will fit in where I am meant to be.

Lesson 3: give yourself grace

I tend to be dramatic and to beat myself up over most of my decisions and mistakes.  When I first moved home, I would often spiral into a mindset of believing I had made so many wrong choices because I felt so behind everyone else around me. I felt stuck. Over time, I realised I was being so horrible to myself because I was omitting all of my amazing achievements from my mind because sometimes it feels easier to focus on the negative.

Now, every time I do this I tell myself:

Give yourself some grace.

Life is a journey of constant self-discovery, you are not always going to get things right and identity is never a fixed concept. I have realised that my identity has become fragmented between the place I am from, the place where I chose to live and the places I aspire to be. Accepting and loving this about myself is the key to my happiness.

To conclude, there are so many directions one can take in life.

As long as you are trying your best to be good to others and good to yourself, what else really matters?

One Comment

  1. Nivedita Dhatwalia

    Go Rachel . This is so beautifully written.

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