I’ve left my country (Romania) when I was only 12 years old. My mother was offered a job in the United Kingdom which meant that myself, my brothers and my father had to pack our bags and leave our sweet little home behind and begin our lives all over again in a new country.
Was it fun? Was it easy? You might wonder…
The answer is simply no (without trying to scare those who might embark on that journey soon). Well, not at the beginning anyway. For those of you reading this, who have experienced having to move to another country, know too well that it was not a piece of cake. However, for the readers who do not know what it entails mentally, emotionally and physically, I will kindly share with you my own experience.
I remember it like it was yesterday…it was 15th June 2009, at around 23:05pm. I could hear the clock ticking, making it harder for me to fall asleep. I was lying on my bed facing the window; the moonlight brightening my face. All I could think of was the 4:00am flight to London Heathrow. Everywhere was quite, the only things that were awake were the crickets and my room clock. Without them, I would of have been able to hear my own breathing and my own thoughts coming to life.
I stood up and looked at the luggage carefully as it was neatly placed near the bedroom door. I took a deep breath and sighed loudly while taking small steps towards the hallway. Everywhere was so empty, so sad. Nearly everything was packed in suitcases. All the memories started to pile up in my head, suddenly sadness was all I could feel. Tears running as fast as horses racing down my face, shortness of breath and sobbing took over me. As of that moment, it felt impossible to leave my sweet home town for a foreign place.
My father’s alarm went off at 23:30pm and we all gathered our luggage near the main door. It was the most quite process you can imagine. Almost like a silent movie. Before leaving, I took a last look at the apartment. I could relive every little moment, every joke and laughter, every tear shed. A moment that to this day I can still vividly remember and that I will never forget. Finally, we locked the door behind us, leaving a piece of our hearts behind and hoping that one day we will come back for it.
Even though a feeling of sadness and melancholy was persisting in my soul, I was thrilled and agitated to meet my mother at London Airport and to see what England can offer me.
Unfortunately, I am unable to tell you about everyday I have been spending in this country, but I can assure you that the feeling of sadness lingered within me for a long period. The good part about it is that I managed to overcome it and I will share with you my secrets in a moment.
There were a lot of aspects that were challenging but to be honest the hardest one was the language barrier. Even though I came prepared with a good understanding of English and I was able to hold a typical conversation, it was more difficult than I imagined to understand the people around me. When I look back at it now I find it funny but imagine someone asks you ”Where are you from?” and you answer with ”No, I don’t know.” It was very embarrassing and I could tell from their facial expression that what I was saying made no sense whatsoever. There were countless words and expressions that were alien to me.
My school years were not so fun either…I cringe just thinking about them. I had no friends in my first year of school in the UK. I used to run away from school and hide in the park opposite the school where I came in contact with creepy individuals that I could only thank God that I came out alive from. Being not able to understand people and being afraid to speak my mind sent me into deep solitude. I was missing home, I had no friends, I could not communicate as I wished, and the worst thing was that the rest of my family was in the same situation. Unfortunately, I ended up consuming a lot food to sooth my pain. Some days when I was running away from school, I used to come to a little, secluded park near my house where I used to hide away behind a tree and eat and eat and eat until I knew it was the hour when I should be home from school. I gained a lot of weight in only several months (when I was only 14 I was size 20, XL).
Definitely, the educational system here was a whole new world to me. Back in Romania I used to do endless hours of homework plus extra revision classes with tutors and off course I just cannot forget the surprise tests and exams at school. I was in shock that I received no homework here but happy at the same time. I had so much free time to do other things for myself- any teenager loves this.
Additionally, the differences in cultures had a big impact on my ability to adapt here. The holiday periods I would classify them as the hardest part of the year (especially at Christmas). Christmas is celebrated differently here in terms of how people prepare for it. All the holiday celebrations (lights, presents, restaurant bookings, cards, decorations) are put on the market as early as August in some parts of the country. For me personally, it slightly destroys the holiday spirit as we still have one more season until winter arrives.
So now, how did I manage to live with all the diversity that England offered me? Well, to break it down…
”No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path. ”Buddha
For the first few years of living in England, I was extremely self conscious about my looks, my body language and even about the thoughts circulating my mind. I used to be so critical about everyone and every little thing, I was annoyed and irritated easily and I was never satisfied. My relationships with the people around me, including my family were affected. Even when things were going well, a negative cloud was always above me resulting in me developing anxiety disorder and depression. I felt like I was drowning every day and I was further and further away from being able to escape the abyss I was in. I was in a state of complete numbness physically, emotionally and mentally. I saw no light, no hope for days on end.
One day, I overheard a school colleague calling me fat behind my back. I kept my cool, I did not start crying, I actually did not care at that time…or so I thought. But the subconscious works differently. That comment stuck in my subconscious self even to this day. After few days I told my parents that I wanted to join a gym. Next day I bought a membership and I could not even run for 1 min. It was a wake up call. Everyday after school for few months, I made the effort to travel about 40 minutes from school to the gym. Yes, I did see a change physically but not mentally and emotionally. Because of that, I stopped going to the gym after a while because I did not have the mental strength to continue. As a result of that, I gained some of the weight back.
I started feeling more and more depressed, worthless and hopeless. When I was listening to music I could imagine myself on the stage with millions of people watching me, thinking that I am great. I could see the confident, beautiful and unbreakable side of me. Music was an escape. But the reality was that I was none of that and I knew it .
There is always light after the storm. To the amaze of myself I finally lost the weight after 4 years of battling with my own mind. Many, many times my heart was telling me ”YES you can do it”, but my mind was in control and had the last words which were always ”NO Maria, who are you fooling?”. I reached a point where I was physically exhausted of feeding my body with such negativity. It made me scream out loud. That was the day where I said to myself ”What do I want? I want to lose weight and I am doing it for myself. No one else.”
After that day, I had a systematic routine of exercise and diet. In 6 months I lost 20kg. I could not do it without the right state of mind. I became more confident, much happier, more cheerful and my energy was back . Working out has been a big part of my life since then.
Seeing that I was able to make that change for myself, I realised that all the other things that England was testing me with were just a piece of cake. I let things go and let them be the way they are. I realised that everything that I found hard to accept in UK was because I was living with one foot in Romania and the other one here. I had to be fully present in this country to embrace everything and to understand why things were a different way. We cannot control everything. I learnt to accept the small and big things in the differences of cultures, in the way the English people think and act. Moving to a new country means that you have to be aware of new laws, new restrictions and even aspects as small as where you need to que in a supermarket to pay for your groceries. I know they are overwhelming and can be very hard to get used to because a voice at the back of your mind says ” why do we have to do this to get that? In my country it’s like this”. That kind of thinking is toxic and it does not allow you to see all the beneficial things the new country has. Yes, you are away from your comfort zone (your home, friends, work, family) but think off all the new people you would meet, all the new skills and opportunities you have lined up for you. I trained my mind slowly everyday; some days were more difficult than others but in the end you are in control of your feelings and actions. Do not let yourself float on a boat full of indifference towards yourself. You have a choice to make all the dreadful things a new country throws at you, your challenges to a new and better version of yourself.
Basically, I came to this country having formed a vision of it in my mind that was based from movies and news but the reality was different in many ways. I did adapt in the end and I can call England my second home now.