It’s been a while since I wrote a personal blog but as the years go by I find myself feeling a lot more emotional about emigrating from South Africa.
For many people the decision to emigrate isn’t purely emotional. It’s based on something else – a job offer, an itch to travel and see the world, a desire for a different way of life, and for many South Africans, the dream of a safe and more certain future for ourselves and our children.
But along with these seemingly logical decisions come a whole host of emotions. Positive ones and negative ones.
Happiness, excitement, nerves one the one hand, but sadness, heartache, and anxiety on the other.
For me personally, it’s only now being out of South Africa for over 15 years, that the emotional side is really starting to hit home.
I always knew I would emigrate – from early teens I would close my eyes and imagine the future and I just couldn’t see one in South Africa. I didn’t know where life would take me but I always knew I’d end up overseas.
For me it wasn’t a case of if I should move, it was when and where.
Moving to the UK in 2003 wasn’t that hard for me, in the greater scheme of things. I had finished my degree and had no idea what the heck I was going to do for work (what DO you do with a BA in film and history?). At the same time my mum was in the process of moving to the UK and we had some family already in London and the Midlands. So I thought I’d tag along as I qualified for an ancestral visa for the UK at the time (nice one Grandad!).
The UK was a bit of a shock to little old me – everyone all crammed together like sardines, houses all attached to each other with postage stamps for back gardens and front doors that opened onto the street! But it was also exciting and vibey – I was 20 years old and exploring a whole new country and life.
But after 10 years in the UK, I’d just had enough of their depressing weather, grey skies and grumpy people. After much deliberation with my English husband and plenty of saving our butts off, off we went to Australia – no jobs, no house, an almost 3 year old, a vague plan and a crazy dream to make it all work somehow.
And make it work we did.
I look back now and think we were crazy to do what we did. But I have to say I do love living here.
We own a house more than twice the size of one we could have maybe aspired to in the UK. And it’s just a regular size house by Aussie standards.
I love the sunshine, the lifestyle and the freedom that Perth and Australia have given us.
But sometimes I just want to sit and cry.
Cry for the family and friends I’ve left behind.
Cry for the country I loved and still love, despite the political instability and everything that comes along with that.
It makes me sad. It makes me mad. It makes me want to scream and shout and stamp my feet.
Many of us, including me, have parents we left behind and the life they have today is not easy. It’s not something that I really had to think about when I was in my early 20s, but as I approach my 40s (eek!) and they approach their 70s, I’m starting to worry about who’s going to look after them when they get older.
Who’s going to go round and check on them?
Will they be able to survive financially?
Will they be safe?
I know that I will be able to offer them more financial support from here than I ever would have been able to had I stayed in South Africa or the UK. But when it comes to being present and being there to support them in real life, physically and emotionally, I can’t be there. I can’t give them a hug or have a cup of coffee and some Ouma rusks and just sit and chat.
Video calling is an absolute God-send and I think this makes the distance so much more manageable, however it’s never going to be the same as seeing our loved ones in real life.
Travelling back to SA costs a lot and you can’t just go for a week – so between getting time off, flights, spending money and everything else that comes along with international holidays, we’ve only been back once since we arrived in Australia (and twice during my 10 years in the UK).
My Dad and his partner have been to visit us once here, because when the rand is R10 to the dollar, it’s ridiculous for them to afford at the drop of a hat as well. And since my Dad’s passport expired and he hasn’t got round to renewing it, I don’t know when he’ll be coming back again (Dad if you’re reading this – GET YOUR PASSPORT!).
So when you’re living every day never really knowing when you’ll see your loved ones again, it’s a strain. It might not affect my day to day life but it’s always sitting there in the back of my mind, eating away at me. And that sucks. It really really sucks.
And that’s why leaving South Africa is the hardest thing you’ll ever do.