“To face the realities of our lives is not a reason for despair—despair is a tool of your enemies. Facing the realities of our lives gives us motivation for action. For you are not powerless… You know why the hard questions must be asked. It is not altruism, it is self-preservation—survival.”
– Audre Lorde in Oberlin College Commencement Address, 1989
Over seven years ago I left Canada to live in London, England where my husband was pursing a work opportunity in his career field. The idea of moving to a different country to be with him was something I didn’t think twice about at the time. There was nothing more thrilling to me than having the opportunity to support his career endeavours while giving me the opportunity to start fresh somewhere I had never been before. I had just fought my way to finishing a Masters degree I wasn’t even sure I wanted, while working a full-time job that was not fulfilling or progressive in the ways that I had hoped it would be. I was really beginning to question my purpose and my life condition was at an all time low. London seemed like just the shake up I needed. I would take the opportunity to pursue interests that I would never dare pursue in Canada while taking advantage of a new culture and way of life. I worked in fashion retail, took acting classes and completed a course in fashion buying and merchandising. I ended up working for a really great start up clothing company and could see myself growing with their brand…but I still wasn’t happy.
London was really tough for my husband and I. We were both fresh off of finishing expensive post-graduate degrees and trying to get work opportunities to support ourselves in one of the most expensive cities in the world was extremely challenging. London is a great place to live IF you can afford it (and if you like very little sun but that’s a post within itself. Ugh). Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for us during that time, so when our work visa’s came to an end we decided it was best to cut our losses and bounce. My husband ended up getting a great work opportunity in his home country, Nassau Bahamas, so we did what any broke young couple would do…We followed the money. For me, following the money also meant following him…again. Apparently there is a term for people like me: Trailing Spouse. It makes me want to dry heave! Couldn’t they come up with a more self empowering phrase? But that’s exactly what I was. Initially, it was great going from almost never seeing sun to almost never seeing clouds. It’s the Bahamas – who wouldn’t want to live there? Yet, vacationing in paradise and living there are two different experiences.
My husband was flourishing career wise in Nassau. He was finally starting to see the fruits of all his hard labouring and I am so proud of all that he has accomplished thus far. We have been together since we were nineteen and twenty so I’ve literally seen him work his way up to where he is. He’s one of the hardest working people I know which is why I always did my best to get behind him and throw my support his way. However, I was having a hard time finding my bearings in Nassau. The industries out there are very limited and unless you fall into one of the more common career fields, you have to find ways of navigating and etching out career opportunities on your own. In Canada and London I knew how to find my own little way and create my own opportunities even if I was starting from scratch. But it just wasn’t happening for me in Nassau for various reasons.
In the time I was there my husband and I started a family, welcoming our daughter Neylan into the world in 2015. I was working before I got pregnant with Neylan but as much as I tried to make it work, the job itself just wasn’t for me. By the time my due date was nearing I knew I didn’t want to return so I left the company to stay at home with her. Being a stay-at-home Mom was great for the first year, but by the time Neylan was one and a half, I was more than ready to be stimulated in other ways. I did a few freelance gigs here and there and met with a few people my husband would introduce me to in hopes of there being work of interest and/or opportunities available, but nothing was really panning out. Eventually my husband and I both decided that it was best for me to return to Canada where I would not only have my own support system to help with Neylan, but where I could start focusing on my own career again and regain the independence I used to have.
So here I am – back in Canada. We settled in the same city and area I grew up in. How’s that for full circle? I lived in all these cool “exotic” places and ended up back where I started. And you know what? I’m more than okay with that. Life can be beautifully ironic sometimes. I love the school Neylan attends, I love our diverse neighbourhood, I love that my family is near and I like that things are different but familiar. Most of all I like that I am ending 2017 by reclaiming my time (Come through Maxine Waters)! I have no idea what to expect but I know that at the very least my skills match the opportunities available for me here and right now that’s important to me.
Partnership/Marriage is one of the most difficult unions to be in. My husband and I are far from having the answers or knowing all the so-called secrets to a successful relationship. We’re out here figuring stuff out as we go along like most people. What we DO know is that one person’s happiness cannot exist at the expense of the others. That is not true partnership. I am a wife and a mother but I am also my own person. My path to career success may not be as clear cut as my husbands but I STILL deserve the right to self-actualization regardless. Bloom where you are planted – but if you’re not blooming…move. Your move doesn’t have to be as drastic as re-locating to a different country. You may make smaller moves like applying to a new job that you’ve been reluctant to apply to because you don’t think you’re qualified enough. It may be taking that painting class you don’t think you have time for. It may be starting that blog you’ve been afraid to start because it means being vulnerable and opening yourself up to criticism (hello!). As someone who has struggled with change all my life and has been faced with more drastic life changes than I ever would have imagined – I am proof that you will still be standing once you take that leap. Not every move will end up the way you thought it would, but I guarantee you that every time you put one foot in front of the other you move closer to understanding your journey a little bit more.
I am realizing that it’s okay to not want to be the “Trailing Spouse.” It doesn’t make me less supportive or selfish. More importantly it doesn’t make me a failure. If I have to move a hundred more times in my life I will. If I want to stay put for the rest of my life I will. I don’t need the approval of others to validate my decisions. My journey is my own. I am worthy of spending time on myself in the ways that will help me evolve so that I can be better in all areas of my life – wife and mother included. It’s my time…
Apologize to your body. Maybe that’s where the healing begins. ~Nayyirah Waheed…18 December 2017