Thursday, February 21, 2008

My Transplanted Life

I originally drafted this post for a guest starring role on Megan's blog when she asked me to be one of her "Saturday Squatters". That didn't quite pan out, and now Megan is nowhere to be found so - it's going in here instead!

I'm prompted to dust this post off because I've been reading about the transitions made by an American into life in the UK, and so many of the adjustments she's had to make echo my own, only in the opposite direction. I've been fascinated following her story of how she'd left all that she knew behind in the US, and had to try and make herself comfortable in England.

Making myself comfortable doesn’t come easy for me at times. Uprooting your life and moving across the world sounds like an adventure to be embraced by many, envied by others, and feared by some, like me!

You see, I love me some comfort zones. Familiarity, security, predictability – these are the things that make me breathe easy, and sleep well at night. Someone (my husband!) threw a spanner in those works a while back and all of a sudden I’m moving from Ireland, to Florida, USA! (A spanner is a wrench for all you American English readers – one of the many word substitutions I’ve had to embrace, more on this later).

Now I’m living life as an Irish bud transplanted, and after a while of feeling unsettled I am now ‘Blooming Marvelous’.

I felt sorry for myself for a long time. Love brought me here to the states. But love was also pulling me back home to Ireland, to my family and friends that I missed. Many times after moving here, my then fiancé was worried that I was going to bail and head home, leaving him to choose if he wanted to come with me. I asked for his patience and understanding which he gave unfalteringly, as I found my feet here.

With very few exceptions, American people have been overwhelming in their welcoming outreach towards me. Friends and strangers alike have warmly accepted us here in the United States, and are tickled to find out that we are Irish. I have certainly found that old adage that ‘half the world is Irish, and the other half wishes they were Irish’, to be true.

But Florida wasn’t Ireland, it wasn’t where my family was, and it wasn’t ‘home’.

After the ‘busyness’ that surrounded our wedding settled down, and I found myself pregnant with our first child, I did start to find my way here. I fell into that familiarity, security and predictability that I craved through my ongoing OB/GYN visits, and meeting and chatting with other pregnant women, the nurses and my doctor. Aside from friends I’d met through my husband [I kind of viewed them as 'friend's once removed', since they were his friends really, not mine] – these were the only other people I’d met and become familiar with.

When my baby arrived, and I started to take her along to ‘Mommy and Me’ groups, I made real friends of my own. I met people with kids my daughter’s age and found common ground with many of them. These women taught me a lesson. Several of them came from far flung States across this vast nation. Far from their families and friends, and settled themselves in Florida. For some, this wasn’t the first place to which they had ‘transplanted’ and with the realization that they were doing this so smoothly came the wake up call to myself that people uproot themselves and move all the time! They survive, and more than that they thrive!

I gradually adjusted my thinking and opened myself to the possibility of feeling comfortable here. You see, I had resisted the temptation to settle because I felt like I would in some way be betraying myself, and my family by admitting that I could feel settled in Florida. After all, am I not supposed to be devastated that I am so far from family? I am very sad at times that we aren’t geographically closer and goodness knows there are times in the last while that I could have used the physical and emotional support that would have been there without me ever having to ask for it, if we were physically closer.

In trying to stay true to myself and my identity as an Irish person I also resisted vehemently the need to use American English vocabulary and spelling in many situations. All this did was cause confusion and I’d look at puzzled faces as I’d talk about putting nappies in the changing bag and hanging it on the handle of the pram, or mention that in this cooler weather I’d be pulling on a jumper and trousers instead of a sweater and pants.

For the sake of my kids I have started to use American vocabulary like diapers, stroller, pants, stove, sidewalk, etc more frequently, so that they do not need to encounter the same puzzled faces. It’s hard enough for other people to understand kids as it is, I don’t need to make it more difficult!

I’m still resisting the US spelling though – even though phonetic spelling makes a whole lot more sense, I just can’t bring myself to change how I spell things like honour, colour, centre. It may make me seem illiterate, but for now you will just have to forgive me.

Blogging itself has helped me feel more settled, and it has given me a sense of belonging as it is a great leveler. I tend to blog about my life as a stay at home mother with two small kids, and garner great support and friendship from other bloggers in the same circumstances. I have been known to touch on the odd serious issue, too which gives my brain some much needed exercise, and helps me engage in a certain level of debate, at times. I have also encountered other bloggers who are far from ‘home’ and reading about their experiences, and sharing my own with them as a ‘transplant’ helps, a lot. Who knew you could find virtual support groups for every need – right here literally at your fingertips? A veritable kaleidoscope of good reads, that with each click brings a new group of snapshots into other people's lives. These help reduce the feelings of loneliness when they crop up because you can always find someone who’s ‘been there, done that’ and survived, sometimes stronger because of it.


jen said...

that's one of the things i appreciate most about blogging, the shared community of sameness and celebration of differences.

andi said...

I can't imagine how hard moving must have been! I'm too chicken to even move a few hours away from family, let alone to another country. Blogging for me has also brought a sense that I'm not alone. I love it for that.

Anonymous said...

When I moved to the Northeast, I didn't know a soul. I just took a leap of faith. You took a leap of love. I think that's incredible because really, that's alot of pressure on a new relationship. So funny the places that life takes you that you could have never imagined. Glad you're here!

kurrabikid said...

Yes, resist the spelling. It's true that blogging can provide a great sense of connection. You're great at it (this is the first time I have stumbled across your blog) so keep at it.

Deborah said...

Hehe... this reminds me somuch of me! The resistance stuff anyhoo! I will NEVER spell the American way, but I tried to cling to any Irishness I had over there. Since coming back I realise how stupid and naive I was. This is not the Ireland I left. I was up North last week and can appreciate that you left a much more friendly part of the country, but down here, it's miserable. People have become so unwelcoming and self-absorbed and I would really rather be an American, but of course I was too "proud" (stupid) to get the citizenship when I had the chance. Ah well... now I know! Of course, I think after just over three years I've finally found a niche in Tullamore. It's not the frantic self-obsessed atmosphere of Dublin or the nosey nepotistic society of the West, just good, honest, friendly Midlands people who really mean the best. I wish it had been our first stop. Would have made the adjustment so much easier! It's hard no matter which way you go. I moved a lot as a kid and was relocated to Belgium at age 13. At the time I thought life was over, but now I realise how lucky I was to have the opportunity. Hopefully the culture shock is over and I can get on with things and who knows? Someday maybe I'll even find somewhere to belong! I think that's the hardest part. In the states I never felt like I belonged because I had never been in any one place for more than three years and now back in Ireland I feel as out of place as any other immigrant. *SIGH*

Sorry for rambling Annie... stick to that spelling! ;-)

Kimberly said...

What a wonderul post...such great insight into your experiences.

I'm with you on American spelling though. What have they got against the letter "u" anyway? =P

Iota said...

You say these profound things with such directness and simplicity, but poetry too - as always. American cut-to-the-chase meets Irish romance, or something like that, anyway.

Anonymous said...

I so agree with you. Blogging has enriched my life in so may ways. I'm glad it has done the same for you. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to move here from another country.

Nora Bee said...

Hello! I enjoyed reading this, your search and travels speak to me, though I have just bounced around the US a lot. How brave you are.

Julie Pippert said...

What a great journey of transition and settling, and all the emotions. This was great.

And blogging does help fill voids...provides access to things we like and need.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Oh, I know just how you feel, only in the opposite direction. You might notice I tend to use British spellings, except when I'm replying to Americans. I consider myself ambispelling and ambidriving now.

pinks & blues girls said...

I honestly don't know how I could move to another state, much less another country! So kudos to you... it's really very admirable that you've become so blooming marvelous with life in Florida! :)

Jane, Pinks & Blues