In my 20s, after graduating university, I decided to do the most cliche thing any single girl in her 20s could possibly do: I decided to move to New York.
The justification behind the move came from my trip to Japan in 2014. As much as Sydney had always been home, ever since that idyllic trip, I had the unshakeable feeling that I wasn’t meant to live out my days there. A few friends of mine who had previously lived in NYC sold me on living there, and told me how easy it was to move there on a working holiday visa (J-1 cultural exchange visa). NYC had always seemed alluring to me as a young girl, but in later years I had stopped thinking about it. With the ease of the visa that was available to me though, I thought I’d regret it if I missed the opportunity, so with that, I prepared all my necessary documents and readied myself to leave the only place I’d ever called home.
I experienced a vast range of emotions leading up to the move, and the majority of them weren’t positive. There was one week, I cried going home on the train from work 3/5 consecutive days, shielded only by my colossal copy of ‘War and Peace’. Another week closer to the move, I couldn’t get to sleep at night. I knew I was beginning to get cold feet at this point, despite all the justification I’d pointed out for the move. Obviously it was too late to back out though.
And, in spite of all the fear, anxiety, and sadness that I was feeling, I couldn’t face the possibility of living in Sydney for the rest of my life. Nevertheless, I faced criticism from some friends. One of my friends said I chose “the worst possible time to move to the US” (which I couldn’t agree with more). Another voiced concerns about the possibility of me not being able to find a job, and having to come home financially worse off. The comments were disheartening, but I knew after getting off the plane in Sydney after my last trip, that I couldn’t live my life like that anymore, just living for the holidays.
During one of our last meetups in Sydney, one of my friends said she hoped that I would find whatever I was looking for in NYC. However, I didn’t really know what this was myself. All I really knew was, ever since that idyllic trip to Japan in 2014, I never felt the same about living in Sydney. Ever since then, I’d been travelling the world searching for that elusive something, but I couldn’t find it doing the same thing I had always done.
At the same time, I hadn’t prepared myself for the reality of the situation. When I told people about the move, the most common question I got asked was, “are you excited?” I often replied that I wasn’t, or only a little bit. In short, I was thinking of all the doubts that I had surrounding the move, the tediousness of having to start fresh all over again, and the discomfort of it all. It was like after I had gotten the visa, I began to question if I really wanted it after all. I knew how it felt to want something very badly, to look forward to something, and I knew after I got the visa, there was an absence of emotion for almost everything in my life. I was surviving, going through the motions of my daily routine: working, exercising, eating, sleeping, seeing friends, but I failed to feel anything. There was the constant fear and doubt that I had made a huge mistake. I spent the past three years wanting something, dreaming about it, hoping for it every day, and then felt nothing when I finally got it. So I did everything I could do avoid talking about the move, avoided seeing my friends when I could, just to avoid that dreaded question and the emotions it conjured up. I needed to come to terms with the gravity of what I had done, and I wanted to be on my own.
It was a stark contrast to those first few weeks after coming back- I slept, ate, breathed, dreamed New York. It was the only thing I thought about. I knew the odds were stacked against me, but I prepared to leave anyway. A couple of days before the move, it hit me that I was really leaving and I didn’t know if I felt like laughing or crying. I didn’t know if or when I would be back again. I felt an enormous chapter of my life was ending, while another one just as big, was beginning, and I didn’t know how to feel about it.
When I really took a long, hard look at my life, I reasoned that taking action was infinitely better than wishing, wanting, hoping, and never going. And with that, I ended one very important chapter of my life, to begin anew on the other side of the world, alone.