How it all began

When we go through a move, we often get so caught up
in the process, both practical and emotional, that we don’t necessarily pay
attention to the initial decision. I believe that how we make the decision to
move and why has a big impact, not only on how smooth the process of the move is,
but also on how successful the transition turns out to be. Questions such as whose
decision it was to move, what were the criteria, whether there was explicit
agreement and what compromises were made are really critical here. To give you
an example, if a couple is moving, but not both partners are explicitly on
board from the beginning, the move is likely to be challenging. An
international move is tough enough in its own right, but it becomes impossibly
difficult when potential conflict and disagreements are lurking at every stage
of the process.

Our move is a done deal by now – the decision has
been made and it was a joint decision. The criteria were clear and we both
committed to make it work. But the day my husband received his new job contract
and I realized that I was about to become a foreigner again, it still came as a
shock. It’s not that we never contemplated a move; we’d been having – mostly
academic – conversations for years now, but somehow the “right” place never
came up.

Until last month. It all happened very fast and
suddenly (well, at least that’s how I saw it) we needed to make a decision. I
guess I’d been postponing thinking about what a move would mean for all of us
until we were only days away from having to give an answer. And then the
floodgates opened and all these thoughts and emotions started rushing in – I
wasn’t sure what I felt. As the
reality slowly sinks in, I’m still not sure.

Part of me is excited about the move. Change is
energizing – a new country, a new environment, a new home, new people. When we
moved to Europe from the United States in 2001, we saw it as a temporary move.
After all, we had not been used to spending longer than three years at any of
our previous locations. Ten-and-half years later, this is the only place – since
we met – where we’ve lived for that long. I have had mixed feelings about moving
to Vienna and for the first nine (yes, nine) years of my life here, I refused
to settle and feel at home. I liked to complain that the climate was too cold
and the people too cool – both hard to digest for a temperamental Greek. One would
think that I’d be happy now that I had the perfect opportunity to escape all
that.

Except that in my tenth year I had some sort of epiphany;
Vienna might not be that bad after all. I’m not sure what caused it. It could
have been the fact that my children were born here and consider Vienna their home;
or the fact that I made so many wonderful friends here – some of them as close
as family; or maybe, after constantly thinking about wanting to live somewhere
else, I considered the alternatives and realized that there are very few other
places where the quality of life is so high; or the place just “grew on me” with
time (it will be close to eleven years, after all). Even though I would never
call Vienna home, it did offer me a good life.

So there is this other part of me that is incredibly
sad to leave.  I am devastated at the
thought of leaving behind my friends. These people – and my family –, they are
my home. It’s like I would be leaving behind part of myself. Also, I realize
that my children will benefit from the new experiences but I am worried about
putting them through so many changes and adjustment challenges. Last but not
least, the prospect of building a new life from scratch is intimidating. It has
been so long since my last move that I have forgotten how it goes. Not to
mention that the last time I moved, I didn’t have children. This is so much
more complicated.

I would love to hear about your experiences with moving
decisions. How did you make the decision and how did you feel about it? How did
it change your life?

Happy Valentine’s Day, by the way J

3 Comments

  1. Great idea and, yes, your writing appeals.
    Born in Stockholm, raised in Yugoslavia and Austria, then a "foreigner" in Tunisia, France, Italy and Germany, I consider myself a perfect listener to what you will share with your blog followers.
    What makes us migrants? Destiny? A genetic impulse? A hidden sadness? Quest for the perfect harbour?
    Curious to read about your thinking.

    1. Thank you for contributing to the discussion. Perfect listener indeed!
      From the stories I've heard, a lot of what makes us migrants has to do with how we grew up. If you have been used to moving around all the time, at some point, not only do you become a "veteran" at handling change, but you also seek it; the restlessness becomes part of you.
      Another way to see it: someone once told me "once and expat, always an expat." Once we make that first move, often there is no way back. Not everyone realizes that.

  2. Exciting news. I wish you all all the best. Will be following your blog with great interest!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *