From Surviving to Thriving

Today marks exactly three years since my four children and I stepped off a plane from Britain to join my husband and their father and embark on a new life in America.  Three years is a weird way-marker because in some ways it feels like we have not been here that long and in other ways it feels like we are way more established here than we would be after a mere three years.  We are inbetweeners.

Looking back, I think the first year of life here was very much about just surviving.  Back then I was so focused on getting through each day and each new challenge that I could not distance myself enough to have adequate perspective to recognise that we were just surviving.  I was just putting one foot in front of the other, sometimes stumbling, but mostly moving forwards.  However, so much has happened in these first three years that have helped us put down roots and start to feel settled here.  We bought a house – which was a massive deal for starting to “belong” – and everyone got settled into rhythms and routines, adjusted to new schools and work places, made new friends, developed new traditions to meld with the old ones we imported from Scotland, passed driving tests, and the children officially became American citizens.  Now I alone am the only Green Card holder, the only alien.

All of these things mean that we are well out of survival territory.  But nor are we quite thriving here yet or at least not in every area of life.  The transition takes far, far longer than one could ever anticipate.  It’s a long journey.  And there are road bumps.  And tolls.  And wrong turns that need to be corrected.  We are still moving towards the same fixed destination but it is just taking a bit longer than we expected.  So, to mix my metaphors, we are in this weird No Man’s Land between Surviving and Thriving.

Long time readers might recall my Lego nightmare and how it became a metaphor for our immigration experience.  I am happy to report that most of the Lego sets have now been rebuilt and are displayed on shelves and played with regularly.  However, there are a few sets left to build and there are some that are going to be extremely challenging to rebuild because it seems that some critical pieces are missing.  We will get there with the Lego and with the feeling of being settled enough to thrive.

22 thoughts on “From Surviving to Thriving

  1. I can’t imagine moving to a new country. A move from one home to another is stressful enough. Your Lego post was an excellent metaphor for explaining how you must have felt amidst all that stress! Glad to hear most of those sets have been rebuilt. You will get there soon!

    • Thank you. I think initially we just expected too much of ourselves and so didn’t anticipate how long it takes to settle down but we are definitely getting there and making strides instead of baby steps.

  2. I know it is a huge step to move to another country – it is stressful in so many more ways than one might expect…… I was told it would take two years before I felt in any way settled and another two to feel ‘at home’. For me, that proved accurate. It’s fascinating isn’t it how when we are in survival mode, we just keep going and so often don’t recognise that we are stressed…… Hindsight is great 🙂

    • Thank you. Sometimes when I get frustrated by not knowing how something works here in the US or when I am very much missing the NHS, I need to remind myself how far we have come and how well we have settled.

      • Thank you. The US healthcare system is abysmal. It’s expensive and complicated and stressful to deal with and so far I’ve encountered no better treatment than we received in the U.K.

      • You’re welcome Laura 🙂
        And I guessed as much about the health service over in the USA, it seems crazy from a British perspective, that so many Americans were against the idea of creating an American National Health Service. It makes me really appreciate what we’ve got over here 🙂

      • I meet so many people who complain about the system here yet they balk at the idea of socialized medicine. It’s pretty weird how ingrained the medical insurance culture is here.

      • I can quite imagine…………….unfortunately a lot of people dislike the idea of contributing towards something that they may not use, whilst someone else might use it a lot…………..alas we tend to live in a very selfish society these days. I don’t think the NHS would be set up in the UK nowadays, various governments keep moving more and more to the American system 😦

  3. three years may seem such a long time but i agree with you, it was short. moving is really difficult. such a major stress booster. i’ve been there and done that for a mere one and a half years and still i did not feel i really belonged there. always a tourist, i suppose. making a u-turn and coming back home was another process but a more easier one. one lego brick at a time. one experience over the other, one adventure at a time. one brick to support the other.

  4. May the Lego sets continue to be rebuilt – those missing pieces will be found and reassembled!! Your journey has been a great one, I’ve loved following it – may the thriving continue!

  5. It’s amazing how long it takes you to settle in to somewhere new… I found the same thing when I moved to Dublin all those years ago, and it’s only down the road from where I grew up! I’m glad to hear that you’re well on the way to feeling at home in the US now though, and that you’re gradually reassembling your Lego as you go!

    • Thanks. I definitely think any move requires a period of adjustment. That’s been my experience with moves within the U.K. too. I think because this was our first relocation with kids, I maybe put too much pressure on myself to have everyone settled sooner. I just have to adjust my expectations a bit. We are definitely almost there though.

  6. OMG, I just read the old Lego post. I can imagine how desperate you were to see them mixed up. I think I would have fainted! I emigrated from where I lived for almost 30 years to Hungary in 1998 and I am still not settled. I think I will never feel settled there, because the culture and language are so different from everything I ever knew. It’s all good to go to ‘better life’, but there is always a price to pay. Not complaining, it’s just how I feel. Good luck to you all!

  7. Loved this piece Laura. Really resonates with some of my major moves. One year in Miami then two years in Barbados sounds like paradise but were in fact both a real, real struggle. Then of course the original move from Glasgow to France as a young woman of twenty-two. But all of them in the name of love! Thanks for dropping by my blog, via the amazing Ellen Hawley I think, and your comments. Much appreciated. Keep up the great blogging. Juliet

    • Thank you for visiting my blog and for your comment. That’s a lot of international moves! It definitely takes longer to settle somewhere than I thought it would so I imagine the brevity of some of your moves must have been pretty challenging. Love definitely makes us do crazy things.

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