Today, two years ago I landed at Heathrow airport. Touching down to a heavy grey sky threatening snow flurries with two suitcases and a stomach full of butterflies. I stepped off of the plane unsure about the path that lay ahead.
Two years on, I’m trying to remember what I felt in those early moments. I know that I felt anticipation and excitement of the future. I felt joy at seeing Matt and being together. But I also felt fear. Fear of leaving home and fear of the unknown.
We drove the three hours back to Lincoln with thoughts racing through my head as quickly as the car sped up the motorway. Driving through England in January felt like another world compared to the hot and embracing country that I had left behind. It felt cold, grey and barren.
While the weather was gloomy, our moods were not. We were overwhelmed with happiness to be together and not just for two weeks this time. But also overwhelmed by the moment, which had felt like such a long time coming.
Our story is unique and I know very few people who can understand or imagine what it is like to place your trust in a relationship, which for the longest time spanned a distance of 9000 miles. I certainly didn’t before I met Matt. While the preparation to move was terrifying and emotional, I never doubted why I was doing it and what it signified.
And while it’s tempting to dwell on how hard that first year was, where I was met with a series of ‘firsts’ that knocked me for a six. From the first of a series of job interviews, to taking public transport to work, loneliness and learning to budget and clean; the comforts of home and my warm and loving family felt very far away.
Today instead, I want to reflect on how rich my life has become through this experience. Whereas I once found England so harsh, I have been amazed by the many acts of kindness and warmth that I have received over the last two years. I have been taken in and welcomed by so many people and forged deep bonds with Matt’s family who have looked after me as if I was their own. I have made friendships which have surprised me, and taught me more about people and our shared experiences which aren’t exclusive to culture or upbringing.
I have discovered new parts of the world and learnt things about myself which I may never have realised had I stayed in South Africa and not taken the opportunity to step out. From quad biking in the desert, to bombing down snowy mountains and even trying my hand at DIY; I have embraced so many new things that have opened my eyes to the world.
I have experienced the highs of standing on my own two feet, and establishing a home and a life and values of my own. Adopting Walt and Jesse and becoming vegan have opened my heart to the tenderness and kindness that all animals deserve. I am better for having found them, and I am proud of the life that I have created. It is one of beauty, joy and gentleness.
Most of all, I have loved and been loved. I spend my days laughing and being with my very best friend in the world, which has more than made up for the four years that we spent apart. In fact, that part of our relationship feels like a lifetime ago.
Two years later, I have no regrets. I know that the move came at the right time and that it was something that I needed to do. Beyond just moving to be with Matt, I’ve come to realise that I did it for me. At the heart of the last two years is the understanding that I have been empowered through the tough circumstances of starting over. I am no longer as fearful of change and that makes me very excited for the future. And I know that Matt and our two cats will be my side every step of the way.