Who knew that I would be in a lockdown situation six months after stepping onto a plane that would take me over 3,000 miles from the only home I knew to my new adopted home? Certainly not me.
After two years of red tape and paperwork, on the evening of August 11th, I traveled with two large suitcases and my lovable boxer to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport with my two supportive friends to begin a new life in Scotland, my home away from home, my centre. It took so long, and after jumping through so many hoops, it seemed impossible that the day had finally arrived.
To say I was nervous was an understatement of a huge magnitude. I’d packed up my belongings, given up an apartment, a job, and a relationship, and now I was ready (half ready, to be honest) to realise a life-long dream to live in Scotland, my mother’s Scotland, which she had left decades earlier to start her new life (and mine) in Canada.
There was always a connection to Scotland; my aunts, uncles, gran and granddad lived here, my oldest and dearest friend too. I’d tried to move away in my early 20s, all eager and fresh-faced, bunkered down in my ideals of how my life should look. I was going to work on The Scotsman newspaper — after a few years of getting my feet wet in the industry — I had no doubt they’d welcome me with open arms. I’d booked a one-way ticket, not really researching what it took to live in the UK. All I had to do was arrive, I thought.
What transpired was hours and hours of tears, not mine but my mother’s, a rebooking of a ticket to a two-way fare — I was to return after two weeks. I did hand in my resume to The Scotsman. I was dressed professionally in the suit fashion of the time, and I’d updated my resume four times over before I entered the lobby. It took two buses, a walk and a pulling open of a door to an historic building; I was on my way. Or so, I thought.
I had a nice visit with my auntie, uncle and cousins. I went out for shopping, dinner and hit a casino. I was confident, I was poised, and I was naïve. I had expected a phone call right away from the paper — “Of course, Miss Erskine, we want you! You are a dream come true; you will make a wonderful addition to our Scotsman family.” That call never came, and with it, went every bit of self confidence I had, as I stepped back on the plane and into the fold of my ever-present and often suffocating family bosom.
I did hear back from The Scotsman, by way of a letter in the post two weeks after my return to my old life, my old job, my old mental prison. “Thank you for your interest, but there are no positions here for you.” It’s not verbatim, but what I read was “Sorry, but you are not enough. We don’t want you. What were you thinking?” I imagined the editor and his cronies looking through my resume, tears of laughter rolling down their faces and shaking their heads at my moxie.
Years blended with years, decades with decades, and at the centre of it was me — unworthy, stupid, and bound for failure. It was a message ingrained in me, through childhood, through setbacks, through my own inferiority complex.
Now, here I was, at 49, packing up a life that didn’t resemble any part of my original plan to take over the world, and I almost turned and ran back into my comfortable corner. I was no longer a journalist, I was divorced, I was in what I felt was a dead-end job, although I was incredibly good at it.
There are three reasons I put one foot in front of the other, hugged my supportive friends and got on the plane:
1. My precious boy Kao was already in the underbelly of the plane, and I knew he was more scared than me.
2. I went through two years of planning, paperwork, tears and doubts, and here I was, standing on the threshold of my dream — how can I turn back now?
3. It wasn’t the fear of failure; rather it was the fear of the unknown. What if I fall? But, my dear, what if you fly?
And here I am, almost a year under my belt AND a pandemic that limited my access to jobs, family, friends — and the support system of my tribe that I built up, who rallied and led me, sometimes kicking and screaming, into this new life.
To say it hasn’t been hard is a lie. I have had days and even weeks of thinking “Oh my god, what have I done? Is this right for me? Will I fail?” And, to be honest, I still have those moments. I’m in my adopted country and I’m not able to go back to Canada, even if I wanted to (and I don’t, sorry, my friends). I am working to set up a revenue stream that will sustain me here and not delve into the coppers of my parents’ inheritance. I’m writing a series of children’s books that started off as a joke between friends, a story about standing up for oneself, about our dogs, boxer beast Kao and a feisty fireball Yorkie named Smudge. And, it’s developed into a series of books aimed at overcoming fears and reveling in success. It’s come full circle, and for me, that’s the biggest success of it all.
I started my journey as a nervous yet inspired journalist intent on starting life afresh, on my terms. Tears and backlash followed, but I continued to kick against the constraints — of what everyone else wanted for my life — and now, I’m sitting here, typing on my laptop in my home office in West Lothian, Scotland, on what started as a 30-day challenge to write more every day. I’ve got a book in the works, a book in my head, and the start of a three-generation saga book that has had me laughing, crying and breaking the cycle of expectations down through my great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and finally to me. I’ve broken the mold, and that’s why I’m grateful for the pandemic, as it allowed me time to re-ground, shift and refocus on the life that I had envisioned so many years ago. On my terms.