4 years in Aotearoa New Zealand (and counting)

I got reminded of my kiwi-versary today, by the first friend I made when moving here. She must have noted it down at some point, because she congratulates me every year. It’s not a date I have in my own calendar, or really plan on marking, but when I think about it, it’s a pretty important one and I do like a bit of reminiscing and reflection. I’ve written about it last year, the year before, and the first year, and it’s been interesting to go back and read those posts. Each one feels like a different life and I’m amazed at how life, and I, changed each time in just 12 short months.

In my last post I talked about last year being a settling; into life and friendships, but more importantly, settling into myself. I sit here now and laugh, because not long after writing that, the opposite happened. What’s the opposite of settling? Unravelling? Yes, that’s probably a good way to describe the last year.

I’d figured out my purpose, and was happy to just let it happen, but gradually an urgency crept in. That figured-out-purpose told me what I wanted to do with my life, and the countdown to achieving New Zealand residency, where I’m not tied to a particular job and employer, was the point at which I could start living my life the way I wanted. A narrative in my head started whispering “you’re not living life the way you want”, like an insidious poison. I spent a lot of time internally battling to try and not become someone who was just clinging onto a false hope of everything being OK once a point in time was reached.

It became a desperation, especially when NZ Immigration changed the rules about how long things would take to process. All of a sudden I had to get another job, earning a certain amount of money, if I had any hope of getting my residency in the time frame I’d banked on. Otherwise, I’d be waiting another two years. Thankfully I managed it, and it was an incredible relief to also be able to get out of a stressful job that I’d stayed in about 6 months too long, but it was hard work. I wasn’t at my best. I was desperately burnt out, and started the new job with a fear of fucking it up and ruining everything.

Things were neglected in my relationship, because I was distracted and feeling so much pressure. I wasn’t being a good partner, and the one thing I needed – space – I didn’t know how to ask for. Pete needed support for some things he was going through, and also didn’t know how to ask, so we both just limped along, two people struggling and not leaning on each other. I did the only thing I thought best and ended the relationship, just to let some pressure off because I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know whether it was the right thing to do or not, or whether it was what I really wanted, I just needed some things to stop.

I still find it incredibly difficult to have gone another year without being able to see people I love. I find it hard that I’ve not been able to share New Zealand and my life with people who might have come to visit. The aching realisation of how long it might be is overwhelming sometimes, and often I feel isolated and alone, despite everything and everyone here. I don’t want to spend another two or three years here if this is what the world is like now; I’m missing out on so much. It was never the plan.

So I unravelled and now I’m trying to put myself back together. Immigration have changed the rules again, a couple of weeks before I was due to submit my application. I should have had my residency nearly two months ago, now I’m facing an indeterminate timeframe. It could be months, maybe even a year or more. I just don’t know, and INZ aren’t giving any information. My life, the one I want, is still on hold. I was angry, now I’m just sad and disappointed.

Looking back, I can see how much pressure I put on myself without even realising it. Worrying about things that hadn’t happened yet, or worrying about how other people might view some of my decisions, and worrying that I was tying myself into things I didn’t want. How much fear I had (have) about not being able to stay in the place I’ve made my home, that someone could still take it all away. It’s hard to relax when it’s always there. It’s ironic also, that I still haven’t really made the choice of whether I actually want to live in New Zealand or not. To start, I viewed residency as some payback for giving up my life and the relationship not working out. At least I’d have something to show for it, and it wouldn’t have been a massive waste. I’ve not had chance to go back to the UK and see how I feel being back there yet.

I could sit here and write platitudes about growth, and learning, but no. Yes, that’s happened, and probably the most important in my life so far, and I’ve been unpicking and dealing with stuff I should have done ten years ago, but really, it’s just been fucking hard this year.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, although I realise that my usual positive and optimistic vibe is running low on batteries. I’ve laughed a lot, despite the stress. I have loved, and been loved, and it’s the most wonderful feeling. I’ve got through what I hope are the hardest times. I’ve revisited what’s important to me, practised patience and said no when I’ve needed to. Me and Pete are redrafting our relationship, to what we both want and need it to be. I’ve a lot more inner peace than I’ve ever had.

I don’t feel completely wiped out, clinging on by my fingernails like I did towards the end of last year, which, given 2021 has been dealing with the aftermath of 2021 with a load of new shit on top, is surprising. It seems my re-ravelling is partnered with resilience and energy, and I’ll take it.

Summer’s coming and I’m going to focus on the fun stuff for a bit. After all, it’s not like I can go anywhere else anyway 😉

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