Waking up there are clouds covering the sky and a cold wind blowing outside. After three months of hot, sunny Toronto summer it’s hard not to feel a bit defeated. Over the months I’ve been harbouring the anxiety that coming to San Fran with no job or close friends to fill my time, I would fall into the bad habits of stagnation that I am prone to. Staying in bed until 2pm, never leaving the house, no exercise, no productivity. Without structure to my days my mind easily wanders to dark places. I know that staring out the window feeling bad for myself is only going to allow these feelings to fester, so I get up and started unpacking.
It’s funny how unpacking can be such a cleansing ritual. Folding and organizing clothes, putting things in their special places, allowing your subconscious to accept the permanence of where you are. It makes a big difference. It’s a good place to start. It does, however, get me to thinking about the difference between me living in Alan’s house and us having a home together. When you move in with someone, you give up having your own space. That’s all fine and good, I know what I signed up for, but there’s a difference between sharing space and living in someone else’s. When you buy or rent a house with another person you get to start from scratch so it’s easier to have that sense of a shared space. To really feel at home I know I need to contribute; paintings, pictures, deciding on colour of the walls or the arrangement of the furniture, etc. Moving into Alan’s house I am realizing that it is going to take time and effort for me to feel like it is my home too.
After unpacking (realizing I get a walk-in closet all to myself in the spare room!) I head into the kitchen to check things out. Alan’s not much of a chef. He rarely cooks anything for himself that doesn’t come out of a can. I love cooking, and one of the things I was most excited about in moving into his house was the full kitchen. Not since living with my parents have I had this much kitchen space at my disposal! Not to mention the barbecue! I have always gleaned a sense of fulfillment from cooking a nice meal, especially if I get to feed someone other than myself in the process. It was one of the things I knew, coming into this new situation, that I could focus on to keep me happy and fulfilled. Getting to flex my creativity a little and having a tangible product to show for it is something that will help fill the void left, ‘post-job’. As I poke around the kitchen a little I realize that we are going to need a lot of groceries. I set that aside for later as something Alan will help me with.
Having gotten things relatively organized I settle down in the living room to make a to-do list. Physically writing down tasks and being able to cross them off when completed is so satisfying. Compartmentalizing and prioritizing can make the difference between sitting around feeling overwhelmed and useless and being productive. Moving to another country is a mess of setting up all the little things that normally we take for granted. Figure out a bank account, find a new cell phone carrier, get a gym membership. Even things like, get to know the transit system, explore your neighbourhood, find new favourite places to eat! These things all sound menial, but it really does make the difference between feeling like a visitor and feeling like a resident. Seeing my tasks on paper it doesn’t seem like much. I am, in fact, worrying that I won’t have enough to keep me busy until we fly out in a week for Alan’s brother’s wedding. Alan assures me that he can help me find things around the house to keep busy. Joy.
Alan takes the afternoon off to go to the doctor to get some vaccinations for our upcoming trip to the Philippines and to help me with groceries. We stop at the bank and set up an account for me. I didn’t realize you don’t have to be a legal resident or have some kind of visa in order to open a bank account in another country. The things they did require were a piece of ID (passport), and an address in the U.S. Though I did not need a U.S Social Security Number to open the account, they did tell me to let them know as soon as I received one and we informed them of my intent to become a permanent resident. Whether they would open an account for a person who was only a long term visitor, I can’t say, but my guess is they would. Alan and I open a joint account and never have I felt so grown up! I still spend most of my time feeling like a glorified college student. Sub out school for a restaurant job and not much has changed. Now our life together is a little more official. We have a paper trail, as my mom will say to us later.
In the evening I listen to music and make us a dinner of baked chicken, stir-fried vegetables, salad and couscous. Alan is in his room working to make up for the afternoon off. When we sit down for dinner and a glass of wine, I am feeling pretty good. Smells like home cooking, feels like my space… perhaps this transition will be easier than I thought. We end our night laughing while playing Super Mario Bros on his Wii. It’s been years since I’ve played video games, and it’s fun. Sleep comes easily. Tomorrow is another day.