Among the (not too) chilly aura of Virginia’s winter, among the business of my writing and freelancing, quietly passed four years since I moved to the United States and over twelve years since I immigrated from my own country. And nothing tells me clearer that I settled in my new home than the fact that I had to do math to figure out both numbers.
It’s hard to believe that 4 years ago I packed all the essential things (many of them being books, of course), gave or threw away over 8-years worth of living stuff, and embarked on a plane to carry me over the ocean to start a new life. (You can read more about it in my Of the Endings post.)
Now, after all that time, I can look back and see how that “starting went”.
Being mentally prepared
Having moved between countries already, I knew what to expect. For a time being, I’d feel out of place and a stranger. I also prepared myself for a lengthy process of sorting out my permanent resident status. Other than that, I figured I would “wing it” depending on the circumstances. Without knowing how things would go, it would be hard to make and stick to solid plans.
In the end, I did more than I expected and ventured into some new territories.
Learning new things
Getting used to everyday life wasn’t hard, but there were things I had to learn. Back in Europe I relied on my feet and public transport to get me where I needed to go, but in the USA where the distances are greater, I needed to learn to drive. Inq proved a great teacher, and I passed my driving test at the first try (quite an achievement seeing as I practiced parallel parking for less than an hour total).
Nowadays, I don’t have to drive much, but the skill is there should my circumstances change.
I also discovered that searching for a job might be a bit of a nuisance when all of your experience and references are back in Europe. Some of the online forms wouldn’t even accept international data, so encouraged by Inq, I started my own freelancing business. It required learning a new set of administrative skills and a different approach to work, but all in all, I like what I’m doing now.
I haven’t done much exploring as my creative hobbies consume any amount of free time I have, but I did get to see things.
Initially, I lived in Arizona, so I went to see Grand Canyon and traveled along the local back roads. I tried to climb Humphrey’s Peak, but halfway through I had to turn back due to health concerns. And sadly, because of a sudden move, I never made it to the Petrified Forest National Park.
Then, we moved over to Virginia. The circumstances forced us to pack up in less than two weeks, and we only had 3 days to make it across the states, so the drive was a bit crazy, but we made it. And I got to experience all the different landscapes and as they changed while we traveled from the “wild” West to the “civilized” East.
Around in Virginia, I got to visit local Museum of Fine Arts, but my plans to go to National Parks got slightly derailed for now. I saw a bit of rural Pennsylvania, and because of the administrative reasons, I visited Norfolk and Washington DC. The latter was quite a moving experience as I got to stand in almost the exact spot my beloved grandfather stood nearly 40 years earlier.
Creativity-wise, it’s been good 4 years.
I wrote over 1,200,000 words across various projects. I finished new novels, like Humanborn, contemporary fantasy being a tribute to my time Dublin, and its sequel, Myth-touched, and revisited old ones, like splitting and rewriting By the Pact.
I also had short stories published in magazines and anthologies, both in English and in Polish. And last, but not least, I compiled my fantasy story collection that is available for free.
More so, encouraged by JR Bee, I decided to show my amateur art to the world. My designs became available in Society6 and Redbubble stores, and I successfully completed 2 Inktober drawing challenges, one with dragonflies (which later became a frequent occurrence on my social media), and one with witches. It was a huge step for me as I never considered myself an artist or “good enough” to share my creations, and it was both humbling and exhilarating to see people actually purchase my designs.
Living in the USA
After 4 years of living in the States, I can say how different in many ways it is to living in Ireland and in Poland, even if life itself and its goals and struggles stay the same. I discovered new foods and new things I enjoy, and my life changed in ways I couldn’t have predicted. I now feel “at home” in the US and I’m looking into becoming a citizen in the future. Yet, I still have the unique perspective of having lived in two other countries, and sometimes I wonder whether I should write about them more. Not here, since the blog is focused on things related to fantasy and science fiction, but perhaps in another place. I’m not sure if there would be interest in fun stories or articles related to living abroad, but perhaps in the future I’ll make it my project to find out.
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.