Voyages in America
Endings are never easy. Only movies have tidy endings. Life is messy.
There were too many big points I wanted to make to finish but emphasising any one over the others seemed disingenuous.
Instead, to sign off I want to talk about five smaller moments from my day yesterday that speak to the familiarity, homesickness, frustration, weirdness and joy of making a home on the other side of the world from where I was born... and in America, to boot.
1) I went from my apartment in Oakland to the nearby BART station and into San Francisco for a meeting. I navigated over 2 kilometres of city streets each side of a 15-minute train trip, out of reflex. There was no uncertainty, no joy at finally knowing my way around a strange city. There was only the unacknowledged comfort and unspoken, mundane familiarity that comes when you've begun to call a place home.
2) My sister and her husband donated to my Kickstarter campaign to turn this blog into a book (which I implore, near beg you to do, even). They donated under my not yet two-year-old nephew's name and used a cute photo of him. I haven't seen him for seven months and he's turning into more of a little man every time I lay eyes on him and almost in the same moment I felt entranced at what a lovely, sweet thing he was becoming and severely melancholy at all I'd missed in his life.
Today is a different sort of post.
I'm here today to ask for your help - as readers of this blog - to turn my blog posts into a book.
This blog ends on Friday. I've begun investigating how and if I can bring it back later in some form somewhere on the Internet, but my mind has also been drifting in another direction, a project that I hope can recap and acknowledge the work and story that has been laid out up here and also bring it to a wider audience.
The idea to write a book funded through Kickstarter has been simmering for a few months now, well before the blog had an end date.
But with the blog ending, if it is going to happen, it needs to happen now.
As you read this, assuming it is still Monday, I'll be enjoying the time-honoured expat tradition of having two birthdays.
It'll be October 14 in New Zealand, my actual birthday, but Sunday the 13th here in America. I'm going to act like it is actually my birthday anyway, because it is Sunday and on Sunday fun, indulgent, birthday-like things can happen, whereas Mondays are given over mostly to dull, morose, Monday-like activities.
It's great, the two birthday thing. Forty-eight hours of Facebook wellwishes. Two days of "oh, I guess I'll treat myself, it is my birthday"-type thinking.
I'm 29 on the nose, today. This will be the last birthday I will celebrate as a 20-something. This is OK. I'm not overly sentimental on birthdays. They're actually kind of nice when you can look back on years well spent, right?
I've now spent six of the 10 birthdays I celebrated in my 20s in America. I haven't marked the turning of the years in New Zealand since I was 25. Then I threw back some drinks at the San Francisco Bath House and had dinner with friends at Café Istanbul, where I used to go all the time but just now had to use Google to recall the name of.
A few months ago I wrote a travel story for the Dominion Post where in the small blurb that introduced the story my editor described me as an Amerikiwi.
I have to admit the word grated me when I first sighted it. Over time, however, I've come to enjoy it.
I have become (and LP too, to a lesser extent) a weird hybrid of nationalities.
Whenever I talk to New Zealanders in America they tell me how American my accent has become. And maybe they're right. I say store instead of shop now and instinctively pronounce it a-loom-in-um and o-reg-an-o. I clip my a and r sounds out of self-protection. My sister likes to make fun of my American proclivities.
But to Americans, I'll always sound goofy. I was talking to a friend the other day and our conversation took a hilarious misunderstanding when he thought I said "cheeses" when in fact I said "Jesus".
As this blog nears its end next Friday, I've been more reflective than usual, not just about what has transpired on this page, but about what I've learnt across this entire journey, leaving Wellington behind and striking out with LP to make a life in the USA.
I'm happy that it has been a successful change. It's been a strange process though. Different in so many ways and more rewarding than how I imagined it.
What would the James of late 2013 tell the James of mid-2010?
The hardest part of leaving is leaving.
Leading up to my departure in 2010 for as much as I was excited about the new adventure that lay in front of me, I was terrified about leaving. I was afraid of falling flat on my face and I worried about the implications of seeing my family and friends only a few times a year. For as hard and as tearful as some of those first goodbyes were, I can remember smiling and sitting up excited on the plane out of New Zealand, mere minutes afterwards. It's the same now still, just diminished. When I go home for a visit, part of me dreads having to leave again. Leaving is never easy, but being away is.
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