Dean’s application is officially lodged with the consulate. It’s just the first step in the process (and I’ll write about it soon), but barring any unforeseen issues, it pretty much means that we are going this year. Green cards are strange that way – the application could take us anywhere from three to six months, but once it’s approved, we have six months to get to the States. It felt so final after we handed in that application, like we were really doing this. Maybe it was the ridiculous fee we had to pay (over $500 which isn’t a nice number converted into Rands), or maybe it was the guy explaining the timeline to us, or maybe it was simply doing the calendar math, but I realized just how short our time in South Africa is now, and I’m filling with so many feelings.
I think that hardest part is that our life here is good. It’s not like we’re in a terrible situation, struggling to get by or seeking to escape a war or conflict. We aren’t being persecuted, we aren’t even unhappy here. We have a home, a car, jobs we love, friends we adore… but it’s the other stuff, too. I know where to go for all the things we might want or need. I’m oriented in my city, I’m comfortable with the places I frequent, and everything feels incredibly familiar by now.
I know it takes three years in any new place, even if we moved within South Africa, it’s three years to make friends, build a network, and truly feel at home. And while I’m so happy to go, I’m also so sad to leave.
I’m happy to go and live closer to my mom, to be on the same continent for the first time in over a decade. I’m excited to explore whichever city we make our home, find places with Dean and Harley, learn the new lay of the land and discover all sorts of cool things. The weird and wonderful food is enticing for me – the States has so many types of cuisines and you can buy such different things in the stores or try them out in various restaurants. Harley will have such wonderful opportunities – I love the idea of her joining a team or performance group and being able to do so much more there than she could here. Dean and I could also both grow in our careers, in our passions. Plus, when we do come back to visit South Africa, we could have enough money to really visit in style, like all the other crazy foreigners who come here.
And yet, I’m so very sad to go. I feel like I have a wonderful network here, amazing people in my life who I simply adore. We have a home of our own (even if it is too small for us), great jobs, and generally a nice comfy, cushy bubble. I don’t know that we would be looking to move if we hadn’t had Harley. I think Dean and I would have been willing to plod along, enjoy our life together here and just keep on keeping on. But it’s not about just us anymore, and as nice a life as we have here, how long will it be like this for us?
I need to remind myself to think of the longterm. Many of the people close to us are looking to emigrate or move cities (if they haven’t already). The education system in South Africa is okay, but the public schools aren’t the most reliable and the private schools are absurdly expensive – and let’s not even talk about university here. Plus, there just isn’t as much of the extra stuff here as there is in the States. I could send Harley to Buck’s Rock, my amazing summer camp, if she’s so inclined. Or gymnastics camp, or singing camp, or whatever other activity she might love. Sending her to an excellent public school would mean we could afford to fly off and visit friends and family we haven’t seen in far too long – I would love to return to Europe again, to visit Iceland for a first time, or to show Harley all over the States. She has family she has never met there, and I’ve got nieces and a nephew I’d love to see.
The finality of applying seemed to take the air out of me. It’s not that I’m changing my mind or getting cold feet. It’s just so very real now, and will only get more real as the weeks go on. And there are things that are so daunting that keep popping into my head. We will essentially be starting over, starting with pretty much nothing. We will need to find work, find a new home, get new cars, make new friends, find a school for Harley, the list just keeps going. Plus all the logistics of moving – packing our house, moving our cats, and how will we handle the detail of maintaining medical aid as we change countries?
But, I keep remembering that I’ve done this before. I know it’s possible. More than possible, it’s the right thing to be doing, and Dean and I will march our way through all the details and get it done. I just might need many an afternoon drink along the way.