In my previous life, back in Scotland (sometimes it really does feel like that), I spent a lot of time thinking about change and more specifically change management. I worked in mental health services and was acutely aware of the impact (often negatively) that change could have on the vulnerable service users we worked with and how to do everything we could to successfully support them to transition through it. Moving to Montreal I became aware once again of the impact of change, this time though relating to ourselves and the huge changes that were happening in our lives. This time the change brought about both positive and negative impacts but it was still stressful. Now two years on, we’re going through change again.
As human beings most of us are programmed to not like change. Some change is of course for the good, new opportunities in life, new adventures, travels, but all change whether good or bad still inevitably brings with it a certain degree of uncertainty and anxiety. Personally, I’ll admit that I’m not very good with change; ironic from someone who moved halfway across the world I know. Actually though that change I was okay with, as it was our decision. Where I’m not very good is when I have no control over the change, where it’s outwith my hands. I’m a little bit of a control freak and so having that control taken away from me causes me all sorts of issues.
In the last five months our apartment which we rent in Montreal went up for sale and this immediately caused an uneasiness to wash over me. Now before I sound like I’m just being dramatic I am aware that there are other nice apartments in Montreal, plenty of them, in fact many probably much nicer than ours. So, why was I so bothered at this news? Well, because I love my home. It’s nothing particularly fancy, its a nice apartment yes but that’s not it, it’s because it is our home. It became a sanctuary in a city that we didn’t know. The place I’ve felt safe, the place we’ve been happy, the place where we celebrated our first Christmas in Canada, where we have sought refuge after the bad days and celebrated after the good.
It was the first and only apartment we viewed when we arrived in Montreal, as I knew within seconds of walking in the front door that it would become our home. Mark thought I was being ridiculous when I insisted that he had to come back and view it with me again that same evening, telling him, “It’s ours! I can feel it!”, until he too walked through the door, and smiling gave me the nod of agreement. We signed for it there and then. And ‘home’ it has been now for over 2 years but I know that one day soon when the apartment sells it will become someone else’s home and we’ll need to find a new place to live. I also know that I’ll probably grow to love a new apartment and area just as much and the nostalgia I feel towards here will fade over time but I still can’t help but feel sad at the fact that we have to leave here and uneasiness at the change that is coming.
Like many things in life (buses, bad luck and such like) change seldom occurs as a one off event but often comes in threes. At the same time as our apartment went on sale we also became very aware that our visas were due to run out at the beginning of May. There was a lot of uncertainty for a few months as we waited to hear, firstly if Mark was needed for the second stage of the project he is working on which would determine whether his contract in Canada would be extended and then secondly whether we would get a new visa which would allow us to stay, and this too brought a lot of unease and anxiety. Sometimes just the suggestion of change is enough to bring about these feelings and on top of the prospect of having to move, this became a challenging time as we didn’t know what the future held for us. Thankfully Mark’s contract has been renewed and we received a new 3 year visa, which certainly takes some of the pressure off.
The last change we’ve experienced in recent months has been our best friends moving away. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts we have been so lucky to have made wonderful friends here. We have a fantastic social circle and I feel so grateful to have met these people from all over the world and know that many of them will now be friends for life. There was however one couple who we became particularly close with. We met them the weekend they arrived in Montreal, which was exactly 4 weeks after we ourselves arrived. Within minutes of meeting I knew I had found a friend as we bonded over our love of Mulberry handbags and matching bracelets we had. We, by total chance, ended up living a couple of blocks apart and because we met them so early into our Montreal adventure they have very much been a part of this whole experience with us. So many of my best memories from here involve them and I know that Montreal will inevitably change for me now they’re gone. I do still have many wonderful friends here and I know that we’ll create many more amazing memories but their absence will still definitely be felt.
Two years might not seem like a long time to know someone but the expat friendship is not a normal friendship. You are so far removed from your comfort zone and everything and everyone you know, that friendships accelerate so much quicker than they ever would/could in normal circumstances. These friends become your family in a country where you don’t have any family or any childhood friends. The highs and lows are magnified in this situation and she saw me at my very best and also at my very worst, on the days when I am so grateful for this experience and throw myself wholeheartedly into everything and on the days when I cry because I just want to be able to see my Mum and Dad. She’s been there for it all. The day a few weeks ago when we said goodbye I cried inconsolably because I felt an actual physical loss. I know that technically nothing will change, a small matter of an ocean between us now won’t change our friendship, we have a bond now that we’ll have for life but I will still miss not physically having them both here though, for the big events and also for the little things. This is however not the first time we’ve had to say goodbye to people we care about though and I’m sure it wont be the last either. That is both the wonder and the price of the expat journey
Accepting change may not be the easiest thing in the world for some of us but like it or not it is something we all have to deal with in life. It’s important though to acknowledge the feelings that we are experiencing, understand that it is okay to feel like this but not to dwell on them and instead to find a way to accept the change for what it is, and move on.