Saturday, 19 March 2011

Two countries, countless questions

What a strange wee time we’ve had over the last week or two. It’s all a blur. Discussions. So many discussions. About what we’re doing. About where we’re going. About the future.

We live in Scotland. In May I will have lived here for six years. We both work and we rent a one-bedroom flat in Edinburgh. Financially, we get by, but we don’t get ahead. Like many people every time something extra tries to squeeze its way into our limited budget, it stresses us out. Any other projects have to work around, well, work.
My beloved and I are similar in that we always need to feel that we are moving forward, creating, building. And at the moment neither of us feel that way.

We go to work, come home, repeat. In between we struggle to do the things we love, like travel or even go to the theatre. I write my Scotland blog but I don’t earn any money from it and I am nervous about wading into those waters.

My job has a lot of weird, enjoyable elements to it, which is why I’ve been there for so long. But after five years I can realistically say there is no path to job advancement - it’s just not going to happen. JP doesn’t like his job at all.

This winter we both suffered a terrible case of in-a-rut blues. It was my worst winter since living in Scotland. All of my tourism junkie enthusiasm just dried up and I’ve been waiting and waiting for it to come back again. Part of it has, but not in the same way. Something is different.

All of this rambling to say that a big part of our discussions have been about the possibility of moving. Back to Canada.
Before you get excited, this is not a done deal. I have a rather grand trip pencilled in to Africa in the autumn, which is important to me because I feel if I don’t go now I’ll never go. But come the new year, we’ll be examining our options again and asking ourselves what kind of a life we could build in Scotland vs. British Columbia. Weigh out the pros and cons and whatnot.

Right now I feel like I’m in a bit of a cloud. Certainly the idea of change has given us both a boost. For awhile we where also dancing with the idea of moving flats here in Edinburgh, but we have now set that aside due to it being so bloody expensive and the likelihood it would land us in a wad of debt. We’ve got enough debut looming on the horizon with travel plans and whatnot.

In the meantime we will be turning out attention to earning/saving money. If we can turn the drudgery of it into an adventure perhaps it will feel less painful.

Life is weird. Someone share with me: what kind of life have you at one time or another (or now!) dreamt of building for yourself? Did you accomplish what you wanted? Did you feel like you settled for something less that you desired? What makes you feel successful?


Anonymous said...

I can get where you are coming from. When we made the decision for me to come over here it was a hard one. I had never seen myself moving from Scotland and so in some ways the ideal situation would have been for her to come over from the US to Scotland, but with her having kids it just wasn’t an option. In some ways that made the decision easier for us, none of the ‘no, you come over here’ arguments, it was a just a matter of when. With my British passport I could move anywhere in the European Union with no problems while moving to the US was always going to be a headache. Immigration control is strict, expensive, and there was no guarantee of success if I applied while in the UK. We didn’t want someone to look at our relationship and think it didn’t matter enough for our wish to be granted. We just couldn’t take that risk.

So I moved to the States on a tourist visa, and started the process of immigration from here. Its taken us time to get there as its an expensive process. Also timing wasn’t good. When I first came over the economy was just turning but nobody really knew what was going to happen. She had a job with plenty of hours and all the overtime she wanted and I had ambitions to return home and get a second job and get the savings we needed over the next few months before I made the move permanent. 2 weeks later when I did return home, jobs I had applied for were being pulled by head offices reevaluating their needs. A few months went by and I still couldn’t get that extra job I had hoped for. The longer I stayed in the UK the worst the economy got.

So when I came over we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Being on a tourist visa there was no way I would be able to get work as I had no social security number. Her job had really only provided a good income because of the all the extra overtime available, without that the standard wage wasn’t good, it didn’t provide us with any extras. Life together was difficult that first year. We had to sell stuff just to pay bills or have our very small cheap wedding when we didn’t have a lot of stuff to sell. I felt useless as I couldn’t contribute. She felt depressed at times because we couldn’t move forward and she couldn’t see herself travelling. And we had no money to get that process started. It was only through her managing to get another job, with better prospects that we managed to move forward. That gave us the breathing space to pay our bills easier and with it the opportunity for me to buy some tools. With that I could work and I could start building towards our future. Finally I felt useful, I don’t take well to not working. Slowing we got our crap together. It took us time but we moved on from where we were. We moved on from an apartment that we didn’t like very much and one that we couldn’t afford when I first came over, to a nicer one in a beautiful area that is actually double the price and we can afford it just fine. We worked hard to put ourselves in that situation. A situation where if we want something we can afford to pay for it outright instead of when we had to sell.

Anonymous said...

We still have our difficult time of the year. I get a lot of work from Spring to Autumn and so at that time of year we can pretty much do what we want, eat where we want, buy what we want. Winter though is harder I don’t get the work and so we have to rely on the one wage going into the bank account. We pretty much just scrape by but at least we can pay our bills.

I also plan on putting that right this summer by buying more tools to diversify and make myself more productive, and also upgrade my camera and add a few more lenses and turn the spare room into a studio for the winter. I might not be the biggest fan of the twee Mormon family portraits that seems to be the thing around these parts but that does provide an opportunity to make more money during the dark months.

So anyway we as a couple understand where you are coming from. Its hard but with hard work, ingenuity and working together you can make your dreams come true. We came through the other end despite meeting each other at the wrong economic time. Now that we have come through it I wouldn’t have changed how we did things. We had our moments of doubt whether we had done things in the right way but really we had no other option. Our only option was to work our way through it with the hand that we were dealt.

Kay said...

Life rarely turns out like you think! I never saw myself as an artist, or with some sort of livable career. I could work the unskilled labor jobs and get by and take the time I needed to go to the desert...but of course..that was the 70's! Then I got married and became pregnant and Hubby had good work and we figured I could stay at home. But his Dad in Pennsylvania was very ill and we decided to move back there so he could see his grandchild. There I was 7 months pregnant and a house we had bought and worked on was up for sale and we began to pack. The "friend" we bought it from stole it back after we moved even though we had buyers and would have had enough from the sale to put a sizable down on another house. I had just had my first baby. My husband had found a good job. Although not the one promised to him before we moved! He was on the road when we found out that the house had sold and the proceeds had gone to the "friend"! I was unable to cope and expected Hubby to do something about it but he was not equipped emotionally to do anything..His Dad got better and his parents sold up everything and left for Texas!!!(where sadly he died) There we were in a rental in a place we really didn't want to be. We moved back a year and 1/2 later and I was pregnant again!!! Life was never easy. The job front for hubby was excellent then he was unemployed!! It wasn't until 2002 that we began to see some light at the end of the tunnel. I went back to school and I decided my career could now be artist..but then the recession happened and We have debt for health reasons and other things. No travel, no vacations..and a crummy little job that went away in less than 2 weeks..our finances are as bad as ever but you know what? I think we are ok. Hubby is doing better healthwise. I have decided that I have no time to waste on crummy jobs and the art is taking precedence. Money is just cannot rule my life through lack of it. Sure it would be nice to be able to pay off all debt and live nicely on less but we are ok. We have a humble home, our pets, our sons are ok, I do could be better but it is still good. no nuclear reactors in my backyard, no tsunamis, one thing I have learned is that if life is unpleasant where you are must fix your thinking and spirit because it will soon be the same wherever you go. The change will give you a rush for a time but soon you must confront yourself again. I have learned that I must hang the art on the walls and paint the walls wild colors, and act as if this is home forever..even if it isn't how I planned. I must make my nest so to speak and have my rituals that replenish me, because as fleeting as security and safety is in this world..I need a place in my heart that is home.

Some Chilean Woman said...

Progress is the key to happiness in every aspect. If I work hard then I should be able to reap the rewards right? I feel ya, girl.

Much love from Scotsman and I, we can totally relate!

PurestGreen said...

Thanks so much for sharing your own stories and offering advice. It helps to know other couples who are going through/have been through the same thing. Choosing one country over another is always hard, because no matter what you will feel what you are giving up, what you are saying goodbye to. It's tough.

I really appreciate all of your thoughts and feedback.
Squeezes from Edinburgh. :)

ms toast burner said...

I think being an expat is on of the more enriching yet maddening things that I have ever done.

I loved that I did it but, man oh man, sometimes I wish I hadn't. I'm constantly craving the other.

That said, BC and Scotland aren't going anywhere. Choosing one for now doesn't make the other disappear.

Although we do have butter tarts here...

Dale said...

Nothing is more important than being on the same page with your partner. Whatever you decide to do, if you're both committed to it and you both feel supported and understood, it will work out somehow. So keep talking, and keep asking! If one of you is grimly hanging on to please the other, and doesn't think the other knows it, it will all go to hell in a handbasket, no matter what the external circumstances. Don't take anything for granted, and don't let him take anything for granted, about what you both want and what you're both scared of. It's dreadfully easy to be wrong about that stuff.

Brian Miller said...

i can appreciate the conundrum...and the need to feel like there is a path where you are at to keep moving..i feel much the same tension but have been pinned by the economy...unable to sell the house without losing our shirts...i wish you wisdom in the decision but also in taking the trip to africa...its somewhere i have always want to go but have not so i would hate to miss that...

PurestGreen said...

Butter tarts and Nanaimo bars, Ms Toast! Although there are many things I would miss if we were not here, like bacon rolls. Sounds silly but there it is.

Thank you, Dale. We are in a very good place right now and we certainly feel that no matter what, we have a solid foundation that will help us along.

Brian - Tanzania and Zambia! That's the plan. :)

Linda said...

My husband and I grew up in Toronto, married here but there was no work here for us in the late 60's. We moved to northern Ontario and found work. We had our babies in the north and enrolled at university to further our education. We lived in the north for 10 years but reached the limit of our potential and started sinking into debt. We decided to sell everything and move back to Toronto. We finished post graduate work in Toronto and got really good secure employment. We just retired last June. We have a nice house, we put both our babies through university. We traveled around North America and had one overseas trip.... to Scotland 2002. All of our grandparents were from there so it was mostly a geneology trip. It was fantastic!! We both retired last June with plans to travel over the next few years. Unfortunately, my husband contracted cancer and passed away before that could happen. My advice, travel now while you can.

a Broad said...

I grew up in the Southern USA. My husband is a born and raised NYer .. We met when I was 19 and we have been married for 100 years.
We had babies, raised them and sent them out into the world, traveled with them as they grew.
My son lived in Japan for 7 years, returning with our beautiful daughter in law.
We decided we needed a change, so we sold our home, moved out of the NE. Then we decided that we hated our new home, so we sold and moved to the PNW, Oregon. Which was very beautiful but a bit damp, wet/ Scotland like but not as wonderful.. imo.
Then we visited Buenos Aires .. we moved here 5 months later. Pup and all.
We have lived here 4 years in April.
We are having thoughts of living somewhere else now.
Wherever we have lived, I have had the one thing that gave me security, contentment and happiness - my husband. We have always felt that wherever we go, there we are , we at least keep each other happy.
I really think if you are not content where you are, you should move on to somewhere new and perhaps more perfect for you.
If you can't be happy where you are for whatever reason, there is always somewhere else that can be the Right Place.
We did accomplish what we wanted .. it wasn't Paris ( my first choice) but it was pretty damn close :)
Best of luck in your decision !