Then and now.

Who forces time is pushed back by time; who yields to time finds time on his side. –The Talmud

(NOTE: this is a long one, with a bit of cursing, disclosure, no punches pulled, and vulnerability. Don’t like any of that? Don’t bother reading any further.)

Picture it: October 2013.

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.

Bye.
Bye.

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.

Bye. (Or, in British speak, off you go.)
Bye. (Or, in British speak, off you go.)

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.)
Finally (little by little).
Finally (little by little).

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.

Little by little, step by step, day by day.

The world returning to my fingertips.
The world returning to my fingertips.
Advertisements

Re-blog: Cleaning Out The Clutter In Our Homes And In Our Minds.

I’m agnostic, but can definitely identify with the overall theme.

Rate this:

I’m agnostic, but can definitely identify with the overall theme. I have an injury which has kept me from doing lots of things (including extensive blogging – about 20 drafts still waiting for me) and as a result, my house isn’t in the best shape. Well, last night I finally folded all the clean laundry that’d been sitting on one of my couches for months, and I felt accomplished. Now I just have to put them away, which will be easy, and iron a few items.

It’s also very important to declutter one’s heart & mind; carrying around so much emotional & mental clutter (outside of genuine mental health challenges) is harmful to one’s overall health. As an expatriate, this can mean the difference between some resilience by adjusting to one’s new country and returning to one’s home country. Just take a look at the tags on this post to see what I mean, then read the original post.

Come on over (part II).

A few weeks ago, after working together one evening, J invited me to have dinner at her family’s home. Continued.

Rate this:

(If you missed the 1st part, just click here for it.)

J arrived with niece & daughter in tow and I got in the car. It was already dark, so I didn’t see what anyone looked like until we got to the house. J’s daughter asked where I was from, and as soon as those 3 words came out of my mouth, I regretted them.

Me: “New York City.”

Here we go…..

Oh my goodness! I’ve always wanted to go there. What’s it like? What part are you from? I just wanna go there and shop! How much does it cost to go there? What was it like growing up there? Oh, this is great! I can’t wait to go there one day. What’s their fashion like? (Sidenote: I, Spinster, am the wrong person to ask about any kind of fashion.) I’m sure there’s tons of stuff to do there! And I gotta try the make-up there too! There are probably so many things there that we don’t have here!

And on and on for most of the ride back to the home. 😐 I only answered 1 or 2 of her questions before J told her to calm down a bit. Thank goodness. The anxiety was in full swing.

We got back to the home and J’s husband, a Frenchman (non-English-speaking except a few basic words), greeted me while a couple of female family members put the finishing touches on dinner. The rest of the kids were upstairs until J beckoned them to come downstairs and greet me. (The boys, who are the oldest and in their 20s, didn’t come down; that didn’t surprise me one bit.) She told them to give me hugs & kisses, which was adorable, and they did. Nice warm family. It calmed me down a bit. And wouldn’t you know it? All of the girls who were teens & adults were wearing skinny jeans along with their hijab! They didn’t think I was a whore after all! 😐

I took off my coat & sat down, staring into space whilst waiting for dinner. I felt like an exotic animal because the kids stared at me. The older ones asked me more questions while offering me food & drink. Since I was late, they’d already eaten so the food was just for me. It was strange eating alone while they talked, but at least they were talking instead of staring at me. The food was good & filling. (sampling of typical Mauritian cuisine)

After I finished, I sat back on the couch & twiddled my thumbs. One of J’s older daughters (the one in the car) asked me some more questions that made me groan inside, and then she asked me something I considered strange:

Do you like make-up?

Again, wrong person to ask.

I said

I own some but I’m not into it like most women. I keep it pretty simple when I wear it, if at all.

She asked about different make-up brands and their possible existence back home. I told her about Sephora (my usual go-to for make-up) & offered to show her the website. We wound up looking at the site for a while. This excited her because, unbeknownst to me, she studies cosmetology in college. See, J’s ancestors are from India. Mauritius (detailed Wikipedia entry – Mauritius) has a sizeable Indian-origin population, and so does the United Kingdom. In general, when Indian women get married (or have other milestone events), they sometimes require intricate make-up application, which can only be done by someone who knows their stuff. Since J’s daughter is learning, the Sephora website is perfect for her. It was as if I found some hidden pot o’ gold and gave it to her.

Although her question was strange to me, it did something to me: it decreased the anxiety, relaxing me little by little. I don’t know what it was – maybe having the focus on make-up instead of me? Whatever it was, I felt a little more at ease. I asked them questions about Mauritius, how J met her husband, their religion (born or converted), etc. As an aside, the younger children are at different levels of learning the Qur’an (online version here – Qur’an), and the younger ones had to wake up early the next morning to learn their next sura. Although I’m agnostic, I can appreciate, to a small extent, the positive role that religion can have on people. I think the family is a little relaxed when it comes to Islam (detailed Wikipedia entry – Islam) despite being orthodox; as mentioned earlier, the girls/women in the home wore skinny jeans and watched different TV shows & etc. (Please pardon me if this seems like major generalizing; this isn’t what my intent is, nor should it be taken as such.) Basically, American media doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Time flew by. We didn’t know it was so late, so I decided to get going. I got up, put on my coat, and held out my hand for a handshake. J’s daughter said

No, we don’t do that here. Give me a hug.

I gladly obliged. Younger daughter also gave me a big warm hug. My world lacks hugs, so I appreciate the few that I can get. They said “Don’t be a stranger, come back soon.”

J & her husband put on their coats and readied themselves to drop me to the overground train station. This time they used the family van. As we drove though, I noticed that we drove past the station, and that’s when J asked me for my address. It kinda caught me off guard.

Me: “Wait, you’re not taking me all the way home, are you?”

Yes. We can’t let you go home this late by yourself on the train. We’re taking you home.

Caught off guard again. Me: “Oh wow, thank you so much. You really don’t have to do this. I really appreciate it.”

And they dropped me all the way home, straight to my front door. I walked in the house, satisfied with the evening’s events. I felt the fear and did it anyway, which is 1 step forward for me. It’s hard to push past uneasy feelings, very hard, but it’s possible.

I was, and still am, overwhelmed by the unconditional acceptance given to me by certain people since being here. Sadly, it’s not something that I’m used to. Or maybe I’m looking into this too deeply, I don’t know. But in a world where one has to have certain qualities & characteristics to “fit in”, where everything about a person gets questioned, picked apart even….. Usually in a negative way, as if one isn’t good enough just the way one is….. it’s overwhelming (but nice) being welcomed with open arms.

I’ll be visiting them again, and they even offered for me to spend the night (I’ll likely accept the invitation). It’s nice to escape every once in a while, even if it’s just to another part of town, and just relax, knowing that all you have to do is just be.

Come on over (part I).

A few weeks ago, after working together one evening, J invited me to have dinner at her family’s home.

Rate this:

“What the hell did I get myself into?” I wondered aloud while preparing to go to J’s house for dinner.

Might as well start from the beginning…..

After working together one evening, J invited me to have dinner at her family’s home. J is a translator/interpreter, and I acquired her services through my job to communicate with a family whose 1st language is French. We worked together before & after my Christmas vacation, and she seems like a nice woman outside of work. I don’t know her age but since she has 5 children, one of whom is in his 20s, I assume that she’s a little older than me. Therefore, I’d not think that she’d invite me to dinner. After all, I’m younger than she is….. Maybe less mature?….. unabashedly American (whether I like it or not)….. not Muslim….. Why have me over for dinner?

So it was surprising that after one of our last visits with the family, she invited me over. We left the home & walked together quietly as usual until we split to head to our respective buses, and before I got a chance to walk off, she said “Would you like to come over for dinner one day?” I was kinda taken aback because it came out of nowhere, but I managed to say something to the effect of

“Wow. Thank you. Sure I’ll come over. Just let me know what your schedule is and let’s take it from there.”

Even though I accepted, the suddenness of it still left my mind boggled. What did she want from me? 😐

2 weeks passed and we set up for me to come over on 03.11.2011. I was looking forward to it….. at first. She’s from Mauritius which, to me, means learning about a new culture and (most important) trying new food. But that good old social anxiety crept up on me as it usually does. (While I’m a private person, I don’t mind sharing my “flaws”, like the social anxiety, with others if it helps others who experience the same things.) I had at least 1 week to mentally prepare myself, but mind over matter doesn’t always work for me. My mind was racing:

What should I wear? They’re Muslim; I don’t want them to think I’m a whore (whatever that means). What if I do or say something wrong? I don’t know these people. What’s their culture like? What if I don’t like the food? Would it be rude to say something about the food if I don’t like it? Okay, I’ll stay for no more than 2 hours and then I’m going home.

“What the hell did I get myself into?” I wondered aloud while preparing to go to J’s house for dinner. Nothing seemed to fit right. I forgot to look up directions to get there. Then I felt hot and changed clothes. Then I felt cold and changed clothes. Then I felt fat and changed clothes. Then I put on make-up and hated it. Then I took off the make-up and hated it. And these damn pimples! I’m too damn old to still be getting pimples! And why does my face have to look like this? And dear god, I’ve gained more weight than I thought. What if my breath stinks? My life is a complete fail. What was I thinking, accepting this invitation? I bet I’ll regret this.

I drove myself bonkers. And made myself late.

Since I was late & didn’t feel like ironing clothes, I decided on a new pair of skinny jeans even though I didn’t want to wear them. I forced myself to re-apply the make-up, checked my breath, put on my new coat & sneakers, and left the house. It was a cold but clear evening and, despite the anxiety, it was nice to get out of the house & see a different part of town. One of my unofficial resolutions for the year is to go out more now that I’m more settled into life in a new country, and anxious or not, I needed to do this. You can’t move forward if you don’t take the 1st step. Since I was running a little late, I high-tailed it to the bus to get to the train station. It was a pretty easy route despite weekend service disruptions. When I got to my destination, I called J to pick me up as planned; since she doesn’t drive, her niece drove while she & her oldest (I think) daughter went along for the ride. I anxiously awaited and wished myself luck.

To be continued…..

My sentiments exactly.
My sentiments exactly.