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.
Were it up to me, I’d still be there. I wanted to get extra professional experience, dual citizenship, extra chances to travel, and a new life. I wanted things to end on my terms; I wanted to leave when I was ready. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I lost almost everything; my dream went down the drain. I came back to the United States with only a few suitcases holding a bit of clothing, a few books, and a few treasured items. Meanwhile, those that fucked up my dream continue on as if nothing happened.
I was ashamed because even though it wasn’t my fault, I came home with nothing to show for my time there (or that’s how it seems). I came home to couchsurfing, no job in sight, and very little support – family included. I lost a lot (and gained nothing but pounds). Family turned on me. Friends – scarce. And retelling my story over again – not an option. I have to live it and that’s painful enough, so why the hell would I want to repeat it?
1 year ago today marked the end of an era, the end of my dream as I had it planned and hoped it’d turn out. It’s still a bit painful, still bittersweet. I miss traveling. I miss my Meetup groups and the experiences that came along with them. I missed living abroad. I experience nostalgia sometimes, and I miss the few dear friends I made, so much. I miss what could’ve and should’ve been.
But maybe… just maybe… the end was the beginning of a new part of my life journey. Only time will tell. And as far as that country, I’m not yet done with it. I still have unfinished business there to handle, and most importantly, I still have a few dear friends there.
I needed to get this out. Thanks for reading/listening. And please stay tuned; I still have a long road ahead.
I’m grateful for: second chances at life. The lives of those who are no longer with us. Employment. Observation. Discernment. Social support.
Around the house are: uniquely flavored Oreo cookies to mail to a friend of mine in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In the kitchen: tilapia & rice noodles. The tilapia recipe is from SparkPeople.
I’m planning this week to:take time for & to myself. Distract myself over the long holiday weekend. Continue exercising (even though it doesn’t seem like anything is changing). Possibly meet up with an old friend who I haven’t seen since my time overseas.
I don’t have any quotes this week. I’m not inspired enough because this hasn’t been a good month. Since 07.30.2014, I’ve had a family member die, another family member have 2 major medical emergencies, another family member attempt suicide, and a client death last week (likely by suicide). Add to that Robin Williams’ suicide, Eric Garner (my hometown, by the way), Michael Brown and the disgusting yet unsurprising racism & racists(which I refuse to read; why give myself a stroke?), and countless other issues going on worldwide, and you can stick a fork in me because I’m done.
So instead, I’m dedicating this to the memory of my family member instead. Rest in peace, Aunt Jean 1926 – 2014.
Here’s to hoping that September – hell, the rest of the year – is better than this. Take it easy & take care.
Exactly 1 year ago today, I received a letter in the mail that’d change my life for a long time, if not for good.
It was a Thursday evening, and I came home from a long day at work, with my team on duty for 3 days straight. I was glad to be home. It’d been my home for a little over 3 years, and I thought I’d be there for a long time to come.
There was mail in front of my door. I picked it up and saw that one piece was from the Home Office. I thought to myself
Oh, good. The Home Office will renew my visa. I’ll get to stay here a bit longer, save money, travel a bit, and even look into dual citizenship.
I put away my belongings, settled in to read my mail and maybe watch a little television – likely something I DVRed, no doubt. I opened the Home Office mail and read it. Then my heart sank deep into my stomach. The Home Office denied my visa application. I was a overstayer.
I re-read the letter a few times to make sure that it wasn’t a joke. But nothing in the letter changed. I was an accidental overstayer. I was speechless for a bit, and even fought back tears. (I can’t remember who won – me or the tears.) I called my aunt and let her know, and I told her I’d keep her posted.
Little did I know that this was the beginning of the end – the end of my expatriate life, the end of my independence, and the end of my life as I lived it for ___ years. And to this day, I’m still feeling the effects – they aren’t as strong as 1 year ago or even a few months ago, but they’re still there.
I hope my day is so busy that I don’t dwell on the anniversary. I hope that the bitterness goes away completely one day – some of it is gone, but some still remains. I hope that I can handle unfinished business over there. But in the meantime, for the way my expatriate life ended over there, that place can go straight to hell.
I’m feeling: okay. This past week was a little better than the last. I’ve made peace with one or two things, and I’m treading softly at work.
I’m listening to: the TV – Lockup: Raw. My uncle & aunt laughing.
I’m thinking: I need to go to the laundromat. I want to get my hair done. I want to go to a spa for at least half-day; how to fit it in is the challenge. I have to get ready for the upcoming work week. I hope that my friend visiting the United Kingdom remembers to bring back some tea for me (but I’ll understand if she forgets for obvious reasons). I’m not sure what’s gonna happen after my supervisor leaves in a few days, and that mightn’t be a good thing. I’m kinda surprised that I’m still getting calls to work back in England. I’d consider returning to England if the price is right and the opportunities to advance are on par with what I’d expect here. I don’t have much faith that England could offer me those things, though, so there that goes. I need to book a ticket to return because I have unfinished business to handle over there.
I’m reading: nothing. I may have to wait until July to get the Kindle; something unexpected came up this past week. My supervisor did, however, give me 2 books to read that have to do with my profession, so I may start reading one of them.
I’m looking forward to: seeing my stepmother & sister out-of-state; haven’t seen them since before moving to England. Getting behind the wheel of a car (just for a couple of days) for the first time in over a year and a half. Taking (what I think is a free trial) Krav Maga class, with the option to continue if it’s affordable. Working out at Planet Fitness.
I’m learning that: too many people pass the buck to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Too many people (especially those in power) want to control others and cross others’ boundaries, but are adamant about anyone controlling them and crossing their boundaries. (These are observations from the workplace, but the observations can also apply outside of work.) Some people are in my life for a reason and a season. Sometimes, it’s not me, it’s you.
I’m creating: a healthier body (hopefully). A new & improved life in the long run (hopefully).
I’m grateful for: my uncle reaching a milestone birthday this weekend. My sister reaching her birthday the other day. Getting through another kickboxing class without as much soreness as the first time, which hopefully means that my body is getting used to it.
Around the house are: uncle’s plants. Blowing fans. Laundry ready for the laundromat.
In the kitchen: some fruits & vegetables from the farmers’ market, ready for cooking and/or juicing. Uncle’s ice cream cake. Iced tea.
I’m planning this week to: follow-up with the doctor’s office. Cook once or twice. Take Krav Maga class. Try fitting in a kickboxing class before going out-of-state at the end of the week. Go to Planet Fitness. Focus on eating healthy at my stepmother’s barbecue. 😐
My quote/verse for the upcoming week is: “Creating ways to be happy is your life’s work, a challenge that won’t end until you die.” —Martha Beck (Wikipedia)
I’m feeling: my usual tired self, as I almost always am on Mondays. For some reason, I don’t sleep well on Sundays. In spite of that, Mondays usually go by quick & smooth. Grateful to be employed again, after almost 8 months of unemployment & sheer hell. Glad that Memorial Day weekend is almost here, as it’s a national day of remembrance and a day off from work. And finally, grateful that I got to speak to my 3rd & 4th nephews yesterday; the 3rd one celebrated his birthday yesterday. 🙂
I’m listening to: myself typing on this keyboard, along with silence on this floor. Everyone is either out to lunch or out doing visits. It’s a nice change of pace for an introvert like me, as I’m kept very busy here and there’s rarely a dull moment. I usually have my headphones attached to my ears no matter where I am, but for now, I’m enjoying the silence and rhythmic tapping of my keyboard.
I’m thinking: of all the work that I’ll finally get to complete. I’m also thinking of the things I have to do for work this week and having some time to catch up for once.
I’m reading: nothing now, unfortunately, unless you count keeping abreast of news & views on the internet. I’ll get back into proper reading once I get a Kindle. I love reading, and I look forward to getting back into it with something lighter than a regular book.
I’m looking forward to: having dinner with my (ex)stepfather for his birthday, which was yesterday. He has been one of the very few people who’ve helped me since everything happened to me, and I can never repay him the way I’d like, but the least I can do is go out with him for his birthday (especially since we haven’t seen each other since I began working and our schedules don’t match up). A short weekend trip later this month to see my (oldest younger) sister and a friend or two on the side.
I’m learning: boundary reinforcement. I can only take on but so much, and when I’m offered help, I should accept it more often.
I’m enjoying: learning more about healthy living since starting the journey over 1 month ago.
I’m creating: a healthier life physically and otherwise. Future opportunities to move up in my career.
I’m grateful for: not having to pay for my short weekend trip to see my sister. Employment. Rebuilding, very slowly but surely. Being able to help others going through hardships, this time with a lens of having experienced similar situations. The very few who’ve stuck with me through all of this. The ability to create my own family because blood isn’t thicker than water in some cases.
Around the house are: laundry to be put away. Goodness knows what else. No problem, though – the house is in good overall condition, and I’m just glad for the unconditional love that my aunt & uncle extended to me.
In my kitchen: my aunt is making ribs (now at work, but she already planned this). I’ll eat ’em sparingly since I’m on a healthy living journey.
I’m planning later in the coming week to: look at getting short-sleeved shirts since it’s getting warmer. See my (ex)stepfather. Attend my good friend’s milestone birthday gathering.
My quote/verse for the upcoming week is: Little by little, step by step, day by day.