It’d been a lifelong dream of mine to live overseas. Unfortunately, that dream was dashed when I received notification from the Home Office that I overstayed my work visa (it was an accident on my part, but nonetheless). My now-former employer hadn’t provided me with proper guidance around renewing my work visa, along with numerous other shady things and, as a result, I was placed on unpaid leave, forced to attend the Home Office every week like a criminal, evicted from my beautiful apartment, and (voluntarily) involuntarily left my second home on this day 7 years ago. I had all intentions of returning overseas, but that didn’t work out and I gave up. And coming home, not everything was the same.
Time sometimes heals all wounds. After 7 years, many things have happened – good, bad, and everything in between – that gave me perspective and made me glad that I was forced to return home. But every once in a while, I’ll hear or see something or someone related to the United Kingdom that provokes negative emotions inside of me – anger, defeat, disappointment, jealousy, longing, great sadness. And I’ve come to realize that this god-forsaken pandemic has only exacerbated these feelings this October, which tends to be a difficult month because of the forced repatriation and other things.
But on the other hand, I want to go (to my second) home and visit my loved ones. Most of my time living there was alright, and I try to remember the good times.
But I can’t travel. And I won’t. I don’t want them to be at risk, and I don’t want to put myself at risk. But as annoyed as I am about these travel restrictions, I want to ensure that things are somewhat okay before I get back to globetrotting.
I want to travel more than I ever have because of this f***ing pandemic. Being unable to do so, not having any real control over that, the uncertainty, this invisible thing causing so much chaos and death and sickness all over the world… I’m over it.
Last month, I visited England for a wedding. I was there less than a week.
Because of the nature in which I left England 4 years ago, I wasn’t sure what feelings would come up for me. England was my 2nd home. I’d begun building some semblance of a life there – building my career, traveling, visiting my 1st home at least twice yearly, trying to obtain dual citizenship, possibly venturing into the world of (British) dating, slowly growing friendships, etc. – when it was snatched from under me faster than the time it took for me to move there in the first place.
To this day, I can’t forget it. And oftentimes, since I left there, the months of August through October are sometimes hard for me because I remember the sequence of events that happened once I got the Home Office letter stating that I was an over-stayer. Time kinda froze.
So with that in mind as I flew to England for the wedding, I expected my emotions to be on the negative side. I got some advice before leaving to go there, from a few people in my small circle, to go with no expectations and cross bridges whenever I got to them. So I tried to do that. And to my surprise, I succeeded.
I had a very nice time.
I recently had medical issues and probably shouldn’t have traveled when I did; therefore, I couldn’t see everyone who wanted to see me, nor could I get around how I wished. But all in all, I truly enjoyed myself. I actually thought about moving back there again… almost. Hell, I won’t even lie… I’m still thinking about it on & off…
Anyway, while there I stocked up on cheese, tea and crumpets.
Although I couldn’t see everyone, I saw a few people whom I was meant to see. I won’t show their faces, but I’ll show some of what we ate. 😐
I had proper henna done for the first time ever, as part of the wedding.
I visited my old neighborhood, twice. The first time, I took a friend there who – believe it or not – just moved to England 2 months ago and wanted to explore a different neighborhood and borough. I took her to the local market I used to frequent.
And the second time was to visit my old flat. My downstairs neighbors still live there – as a matter-of-fact, they took over my old flat and the home is now fully theirs. After my departure, they didn’t want to risk any troublesome tenants moving in, so they took it for themselves. That humbled me then, and still humbles me now. Anyway, approaching my old door – as well as the street and neighborhood – was emotional.
(That’s a new door, by the way. It used to be a red door.)
I ate and conversed with them for a couple hours. Afterwards, I visited my old self-defense class and instructor. I couldn’t participate, but I enjoyed living vicariously through the students. Side note – only 1 of the original students from my class is still there.
(I miss class. It’s just not the same over here.)
And of course, I attended the wedding. I won’t show faces, but it was a nice one.
I appreciate the family inviting me. They’re like a 2nd family to me; I’ve discussed them here once or twice before.
Looking back, the visit was better than I expected. I saw a few loved ones, nervously returned to my old neighborhood, got my hair done, and brought home some very-missed British cheese, tea and crumpets. I couldn’t handle all of the business I wanted, but the major stuff was done and brought back. I’ll handle the other business (hopefully) next year.
I planned to never return to England again because although most of the time there was alright, the ending was horrible. But now, I’m glad I went, and I plan to return again. To visit or to live? That remains to be seen.
(P.S. By the time you read this, it’ll be 4 years since I left England. I scheduled this post like that on purpose.)
Exactly 3 years ago today, I got on a plane from the United Kingdom to return to the United States for good.
Even after 3 years, my feelings are mixed.
On one hand, I think of the missed opportunities. I likely would’ve obtained dual citizenship – a top goal of mine before moving there – and my United Kingdom driver’s license (I got the provisional, which lasts 10 years). I would’ve had more earnings potential, working wherever I pleased as someone with years of experience. I think of all the countries I didn’t get to visit while there, and how many I could’ve visited if I was still there now. I think of the slowly growing group of acquaintances & friends I was making, which is difficult enough as an introvert, and the other connections I could’ve made.
I think of my disrupted routine. My disrupted plans. My disrupted LIFE. Lost wages. Shady job. Shady authority. Shady bosses. Shady colleagues. No help whatsoever from the local authority for which I worked. Reporting to the Home Office like a f***ing criminal, and the employees there wondering what the hell I was doing there, feeling bad for me, because it was obvious that this wasn’t something purposely done. The absolute hell I had to navigate, both over there and over here (but especially over there). Shady relatives. Shady friends. And I become enraged all over again.
Then on the other hand, I look at life for the past 3 years, and I’m glad that I’m home. (Look at “Brexit”, as an example.)
I’ve not been back yet, but I’ll be back soon enough. I have a wedding to attend there. I also still have unfinished business to handle, and some involved will NOT be happy when I’m done. But at least the unfinished business will finally be finished for good.
Will I ever live abroad again? I don’t know. My inclination is “HELL no.” But who knows. I can say 1 thing though – I’ll never stop exploring the world.
Happy 2016. It has been way too long. Life happens.
Last year was eventful, in good and bad ways. Let’s see, where to begin…
I traveled 7 times in 2015 (February, March, May, June, July, October, November). That’s the most I’ve ever done in 1 year. United Arab Emirates. Puerto Rico. Houston, Texas. Boston, Massachusetts. Chicago, Illinois. Detroit, Michigan. Portland, Oregon. (I may post a few photos from the different trips. I also have 1 more United Arab Emirates blog draft, that I should’ve completed months ago, that’ll be posted for sure.)
I studied for my professional license exam… and had to reschedule it a few times. I’m now set to take it this spring. There were a few things that came up which forced me to push it back. Would you like to know 1 of the reasons why I had to push it back?
Because we got bed bugs. Yes, a f***ing g**damn bunch of bed bugs, in the beginning of summer 2015. I won’t even go into the horror & trauma they caused me. I now hate bed bugs even more than roaches.
Along with a new job and long commute, I was apartment hunting. I now hate New York’s real estate market. I didn’t even have this much trouble finding a flat in England, and that market is probably as expensive & popular as the market here. Not having a car to drive to all of these apartment viewings, made the search even more exhausting, grueling & tiring.
I had to stop going to the gym after I started the new job because of the commute, so I’m back to where I was when I started. But I’m starting again in a few days (if not sooner) since my commute is much shorter now.
I completed a Couch To 5K program before I started the new job though, so that was a bonus. Since I’m starting over, I’m gonna re-do the program because as a result of doing it, I began developing a like/love for running and I want to get back to running again.
It took long enough, but I finally found my own place. (My original commute was killing me, so I had no choice but to look for a place closer to the new job.) After over 2 years of living with family, I’m slowly but surely getting back on track. I’m forever grateful to them, but I’m also very glad to be back on my own again. I’ll also be forever grateful to those who helped me post-England.
That’s all I can remember off the top of my head. How are you doing, dear readers?
As a repatriate, some of the points in this article hit home, especially since my return was (mostly) involuntary. Take a look at the article below and feel free to comment. Hopefully, other repatriates will comment too.
Repatriation Blues: Expats Struggle With The Dark Side Of Coming Home
This is a New York Times opinion piece making the case for more Black Americans to consider expatriation. As someone who has been there and done that, this wasn’t a surprising read to me and is mostly relatable.
No country is a utopia, let’s get that straight. But it’s easy for me, a former expatriate, to understand the reasoning behind this opinion piece. America is in a tie, in my opinion, with Australia for being the most racist/prejudiced country on the planet. Any deeper-thinking and feeling person (who happens to be Black American) would want to leave a country in which we were enslaved in the past and still fighting for equality in the present.
Enough of my jet-lagged rambling. Take a look at this, and feel free to comment.
Aside from a few pieces of luggage filled to the brim with whatever I could carry, I returned home with almost nothing. The life I was trying to build in the United Kingdom was snatched from me.
I’d been placed on unpaid leave on August 9, 2013 – in contemplation of dismissal – by a shady employer that misinformed me about my work visa, among other things. Because of the employer, I accidentally overstayed my work visa by about 2 months by the time I received notification from the Home Office on August 8, 2013. I then had to report to the local immigration office like a criminal – once per week initially, then once every 2 weeks. I was evicted from my beautiful apartment in October by what turned out to be a shady landlord (I’ll never forget, Gary Sheppard of southeast London). I’d been his tenant for over 3 years and even offered him my security deposit, but money over everything, right? For 3 weeks before leaving the United Kingdom, I stayed with someone who insisted that I stay with her after my eviction. (I won’t mention her name here, but can’t thank her enough.)
I asked the male DNA contributor to please help me get a ticket home; there was no real response. Things were so bad that an American colleague took the male DNA contributor’s number from my phone to call and explain how bad things were. (Even though I knew it was a waste of time, she insisted.) Male DNA contributor begrudgingly bought a ticket, didn’t accept my thank yous, and treated me like shit. After almost 3 months of no contact (didn’t even check to make sure of my safe arrival to the U.S.), the male DNA contributor e-mailed me – not to say “hello” or “how are you?”, but to tell me that “you owe me (insert U.S. dollar amount here)”. No exaggeration – that’s what the e-mail said. When I responded that I was living from couch to couch, the male DNA contributor stated that I was exaggerating and need to look for work to pay back the money, along with some other really fucked up things that I can’t remember off the top of my head. Male DNA contributor would’ve known that I was looking all day every day, including weekends, at employment opportunities, had there been any effort to check on me. Don’t worry… I washed my hands for good.
The female DNA contributor isn’t much better. (Boy… if there’s a higher power, he or she sure knows how to pick the people whom they want to create new human beings. 😐 ) Complete narcissistic waste of time & energy. Don’t worry… I washed my hands for good a while ago. At least I don’t discriminate, right?
Another person from England, whom I’d known for 10 years, insisted that I pay her back $50.00 I owed her in spite of full knowledge of my situation. Yes… $50.00. I was so stunned that she had the nerve to ask me for money she knew I didn’t have, that I just responded with “not a problem”. I gave her the bit of money (and boy, was it just a bit) I got from the former employer about 5 weeks later and after that… *crickets* – no “hello” or “how are you?” or even “f*** you” after that. I waited 1 year for her to say something to me on any form of social media or technology… still *crickets*. I was there for her during some really difficult times (including an abusive relationship), before and after my move to England, and she threw everything away for 50 U.S. dollars. Don’t worry… I washed my hands for good.
At one point, I don’t think that even my aunt & uncle – who are like real parents to me – realized the gravity of my situation. And I’ll admit, I was angry at & frustrated with them for a bit before my return home. But once they realized how bad things were, that was it. I began staying with them before Xmas 2013.
I forgot to mention that since I accidentally overstayed my visa because of the former employer, along with reporting to the local immigration office, I was banned from returning to the United Kingdom for 1 year. Once I gave up all chances of returning after being shafted by recruitment agencies, I gave up trying to get back to the country and sat out my 1 year ban.
And so many other painful stories of betrayal and outright dismissal, from so-called colleagues, friends & relatives, that I could recount since I hit my rock bottom. (I’m not sure if those people deserve my energy, though.)
But then there are people such as:
my (ex-)stepfather who, in spite of us not speaking for 1 year because of an issue, picked me up at the airport upon my arrival home even though he lives in another state and carried my luggage – no questions asked – and gave me money for public transportation to get to interviews without me asking.
Joana, who insisted that I stay with her upon my return home, free of charge and refused any of my offers to help otherwise. I didn’t stay long due to other reasons, but for that and her I’m eternally grateful.
my aunt & uncle, who’ve housed me, which has helped me rebuild my life slowly but surely. Among countless other things, aunt bought me a coat and interview clothing also.
Dashima, who supported my fundraiser and sent me flowers when I finally got a job after almost 8 months of no luck.
Juma, who gave me his old coat until I got a new one, and provided other support.
those who gave me emotional and/or financial and/or other support and didn’t have to – Ellen & her husband storing my stuff in England, Sherri helping me pack, Sherri (again) & her husband cooking for me, Nadine helping me pack, Dacia, Gary, Johanna, Uzma, Twana, Sharon S., Natalie & Emmon, Ruth, Atiba, my 2 main Facebook group members, and so many others I wouldn’t expect.
the many people who sent me job postings.
the people who don’t know me in real life or online but believed me and believed in me more than enough to help, no questions asked.
I know I’ve forgotten some names, but I hope those people know my heart.
I think things are beginning to look up.
I’ve worked since March 2014, after almost 8 months of unemployment with no benefits of any kind.
I’ve paid down some debt.
I joined a gym to return to healthier living.
I’m studying for my next highest credential (or qualification, for those of you overseas).
My aunt, uncle and I get along very well overall, which is definitely a challenge for an introvert like me.
I have travels coming up within the next 2 months; my travel bug is finally back. (I’ll leave the travels as a surprise for now.)
And last, but certainly not least, I’ve been able to help others with no strings attached. It warms my heart to help those who can never pay it back (nor do they have to try). I’m just grateful to be able to do it. (I’m very selective, however.)
I sit here, typing this with tears in my eyes. (A few of ’em even fell.) Some feel like sad tears, but more feel like grateful tears. For those who left me when I needed it most, farewell. For the rest of you, I’m eternally grateful. I thank you so much, from the bottom of my heart.
I’m grateful for: a steady paycheck – I don’t have to enjoy my job, but it’s providing for now. New professional opportunities. My clients enjoying themselves at a local arts foundation. A new jacket for autumn – something I wasn’t able to get 1 year ago due to what happened to me. Having a few days off from work a few days ago to handle some business. Speaking to my 2nd oldest nephew for his birthday earlier this month. Learning about different ways to get cheap(er) plane tickets via Facebook (of all places). Being contacted by a former co-worker in England, who confirmed that I dodged a bullet in spite of what they did to me. Seeing a friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in a few years (good to see you, R). My new fitness tracker – the price dropped so I took advantage. A discerning spirit.
I’m creating: the possibility of a new professional opportunity.
I’m enjoying: reading. My Kindle. Kindle daily deals, which help me save money on buying books. Dead Again. A less complicated life. Slowly but surely getting back on my feet.
I’m thinking about: what’s next for me after getting the next highest professional license. Where this potential professional opportunity may take me. The fact that it has been 1 year since I had to leave England. How bittersweet it is to think about returning here, and how it still affects me to this day. When I’m going to return to handle my business there, as this professional opportunity may take precedence over returning there next month and, therefore, delay my return there for a month or so.
I’m reading: I’m actually trying to decide what to read next. I just finished The Alchemist a few days ago, and I have so many decent books on my Kindle, I don’t know where to start next. I may read one of the books that I read when I was younger, just to read whichever book I choose with an older & wiser perspective. Stay tuned.
I’m looking forward to: seeing D’NALI this week. 🙂 Weighing myself to see if I lost any weight. (P.S. losing weight is hard, and I hope this is my first & only time having to do it.)
I’m learning to/practicing to/working on/embracing: ways to avoid going down the rabbit hole. Rebuilding my life slowly but surely. My fitness, health & wellness.
Around the house are: my exercise sneakers. Clean laundry waiting to be put away. Healthy snacks.
In my kitchen: is a pot soaking in the sink.
I’m planning later in the coming week to: return to checking flight prices to/from Kentucky and England – gave up for a bit due to frustration over prices, but recently learned (what are hopefully) 1 or 2 helpful tricks. Follow up with a few questions about handling my business in England – that was frustrating too. Check that one last piece of information for my license paperwork/application made it to the state board offices (luckily, the rest of the paperwork is already there). Meet up with D’NALI. Possibly meet up with step-dad for dinner later this week. Buy a bus ticket to see my stepmother & sister in Pennsylvania again. Follow up on that professional opportunity. Continue working out. Attend my doctor’s appointment.
My quote/verse for the upcoming week is: don’t sweat the small stuff; pick & choose battles wisely.
I’m wishing you: a good, peaceful & productive week.