Part II: A Dream, Realized?
by Olivia Pennelle
Editor's Note: This entry is part of a three-part retrospective series on one of the greatest leaps of faith I've seen in my adult life: a move from the UK to the United States.
Part I looks at the process of her decision to move. Part II deals with the surprising culture-shock she experienced, and Part III uncovers the things she's learned along her brave journey. A great story of resilience and transformation. Enjoy! - DDM
It felt surreal stepping off the plane in San Francisco. I had arrived. My plan of relocating to the US had been realized—I had stepped on US soil. I had emotionally prepared myself for that moment—I had finally arrived.
I thought that leaving friends and family behind would be the most difficult aspect of my relocation to America. I thought that the practical arrangements would be a breeze, given my propensity for organizational planning.
I was wrong.
I hadn’t fully anticipated the struggles I have encountered. I hadn’t expected to need the mental strength and resilience for the move once I was in America, and I certainly hadn’t expected (as an American citizen) to feel like a foreigner. I have felt lost, challenged to my very core.
At times I feel broken. Yet within all this madness, tears, and questioning, I have discovered the depth of my conviction to live out my plan and the endless well from which I draw my energy: my faith.
I have evolved—I have become stronger and more resilient that I’d ever imagined.
Like a Frightened Little Girl, Lost
The first week in America was tough. I was emotionally, physically and mentally drained. Months of planning my move, living out of a suitcase, holding sales, working two jobs, saving, dealing with the after effects of saying goodbye to friends and family, and leaving every aspect of normality that I knew behind, left me feeling utterly exhausted. Add into the mix some jet lag, and I was beaten.
I spent two weeks sleeping, crying, and frightened about the future. I got sick and felt drained—like someone had weighted my limbs. I finally had to stop and rest. The California sun, my brother, his wife, and their gorgeous dogs were just the remedy I needed. I took long walks on the beach. I hiked with the dogs when I could.
I spent those moments searching my soul, reminding myself why I was subjecting myself to the frightening idea of moving to another continent—I did it because there was something greater for me, a wonder, a new adventure that for over 30 years I had yearned for. I was grateful to have my brother and his wife’s love and support that two weeks—a well-needed respite. They also helped prepare me for the first few months. They warned that I would often question my decision to move.
But I still felt like I frightened little girl, lost.
Slowly, as I rested and regained composure, I was finally able to breathe in the expanse that I had been craving, that I had dreamed of. I filled my lungs with the clear Pacific air.
The emotional processing could only take up so much space though—I was forced to continue preparing the next step of my plan, dealing with the practical aspects of my move. My flight to Portland was booked for January 4th, and so began the challenges!
Starbucks or bust? I think not
I had to search for a home. I had arranged a hostel for my first month in Portland, but I couldn’t reconcile paying nearly $2000 for it; I had to get out of that situation quickly. Unfortunately, the hostel was my only option at first, since landlords won’t arrange an apartment viewing until you’re physically in the US. I knew that Portland’s market for housing was fast-paced and cutthroat—the US census reports that 111 people move to the city each day (2015 figures). I spent my last week in San Francisco searching Craigslist in Portland, emailing, calling and Skyping potential landlords. Panicking, too. Fortunately, the work paid off and I was lucky to have secured two viewings for my first day I Portland. I finally felt a little relief.
In those first two weeks, I also secured two new writing contracts with organizations that had asked me to write for them. I was honored. Finally, I began to see those seeds of hope growing into little seedlings of my new, transformed life.
While I had now covered my anticipated rent, I thought that I also needed to secure a part-time job while I grew my business to a sustainable level of income. And the more I put myself out there contacting publications, sending daily pitches, and networking like a badass, the more the universe positively responded.
Before I left California, I had secured a full-month's pay in writing contracts. I was astonished. Writing in the UK only provided a small pot of savings for a move; it was never a full-time salary. Yet, here I was, taking a leap of faith into uncertainty, and the universe responded. The seedlings began to grow. I started to entertain the possibility that I wouldn’t need to work in Starbucks or get an office job—my worst nightmare.
Everyone told me that a job in Starbucks would pay the bills, that it would offer security, and insurance, and peace of mind—but I didn’t want to work there. I couldn’t fathom being part of another corporate machine. It drained my soul. Few people understand my passion for writing and the need to be my own boss—this can be very frustrating and isolating for me.
That life I wanted to abandon back in the UK. I didn’t want to be another cog; I wanted to be adding value to people’s lives, and fulfilling my purpose—not serving up a milky drink to someone who doesn’t even look at you.
As it happened, in a moment of self-doubt (and there have been many), I applied online and Starbucks said I was unsuccessful with my application—I didn’t even get an interview.
I guess that’s that.
Shit Gets Real
Leaving California was tough. Those first two weeks served as a buffer between leaving the UK and finding independence in Portland.
Now, shit was about to get real.
My brother drove me to the airport. He held my hand and he told me that he would be there for me no matter what, that I was never alone. He said that he was overwhelmed with pride for what I had achieved and what I was about to do.
It is always tough leaving my twin brother—we don’t often see each other and the bond of twins is difficult to articulate. I love him more than words can describe. We were conceived together and shared a womb. Part of the reason I moved to the US was to live closer to him and his wife.
As I boarded the plane to Portland, the final leg of my journey, I was frightened, full of hope and wide-eyed about the future. I can do this, I kept telling myself. I am doing this.
The moment reminded me of a bracelet a lovely woman had given me six months earlier which has a lovely affirmation printed on it: I can. I will. Watch me.
The phrase continues to prepare me for my greatest challenges ahead.
About the Author
Olivia Pennelle is a regular contributor to Transformation is Real. She now boldly claims her home city as Portland, Oregon and works as a freelance writer and recovery advocate. Visit her fine website at Liv's Recovery Kitchen and discover her wonderful (and healthy) recipes and frequent interviews she conducts. She's also on Facebook and Twitter.