It’s been 5 years since I moved over to the USA, and it feels like I should write a short summary. I’ve already mentioned a lot of what happened in the last year’s post, and due to the circumstances around the world, there wasn’t much exploring or activity outside of my apartment. So this year, let’s focus on adjusting to life in a new country and achievements, which I had quite a few.
Settling in another country
After having lived in Ireland, I had an idea that adjusting to a new place and feeling comfortable might take little time, especially when the country isn’t too different from what you already know, but to truly call it home takes more time. In Ireland it was about 3-4 years before I felt “at home”, with my favorite spots, foods, stores, and other things.
It seemed the same for the USA, and at the same time, there were differences. Because of the circumstances, after my second year we’ve moved from Arizona to Virginia, which meant more adjustments along the way. Moreover, because I ended up working from home, the layer of going to work and socializing parts had been removed. Nowadays, my friends are exclusively online, and social distancing discourages searching for local people. In a way, I prefer it this way. People online seem more used to distance and online contact, while the “real life” acquaintances often fade away as soon as you move out of the 5-minute-drive distance.
After five years, I’m settled enough. There are still things that surprise me, but I know things related to my bills and taxes, I have my chosen doctors, and in the local store, I can find my favorite foods with ease instead of being overwhelmed by the plethora of unfamiliar labels and names.
Day-to-day, life always seems more mundane and unexciting than it really is. That’s why looking back, it’s much easier to see all the small steps that led to major achievements. And as I inspect my 5 years in the USA, there are quite a few of them, both in personal and professional areas.
Learning to drive stick shift pickup truck and getting my driver’s license
This might seem minor to those who had learned to drive in their late teens, but doing so when you’re over 35 poses a bit of challenge, mostly do to being conscious of how dangerous can driving be—many times my vivid imagination had served me images of what would happen to the vehicle if I made a small mistake, or what’s worse, if someone else on the road made a mistake. Not to mention that with adulthood comes responsibility for one’s own bills. Every nicked paint or bent bumper means cost you have to pay. I might be wrong, but learning when you’re a carefree teenager might be much easier.
Needless to say, I’m a proud owner of a driver’s license, and Inq trusts me enough to let me sit behind the wheel of our beloved truck.
Starting my own business
This was something I would have never thought to do back in Europe. One of the main reasons was the amount of bureaucracy and hoops to jump through. Over in the US, I had my Employer Identification Number in 10 minutes, all of it done online, and the local county officials were helpful in obtaining a business license. Also, to my surprise, despite their inborn complexity, taxes turned out to be quite easy to grasp. It might have been more challenging if my freelance business was more complex and focused on goods rather than services, but it was still much simpler than I have thought.
My business is small and hardly full time, but if I focused on it instead of splitting my time between it and writing, it could grow nicely.
Showing my art to the world
I have always considered myself an amateur artist. I didn’t really put much time into art, and I never thought I was good enough to show it to the world, let alone sell it.
Yet, it seems, people enjoy my drawings and digital art, and with my friend’s encouragement, I set up stores on Society6 and Redbubble where people can buy t-shirts, stickers, bags, mugs, and other items with my designs on them. It always humbles me when somebody makes a purchase: that out of all the art out there, they loved mine enough to wear it or have a gadget with it.
And since I started treating writing as work, art moved up as a “hobby”, and I worked on bettering my skills, both the artistic ones and the technical ones. I feel like I’ve improved significantly over the last years, and I’m hoping to push for even more growth. But writing comes first, of course. Speaking of which…
Writing books, publishing my short story collection, and releasing my first novel
Moving to America meant an entirely different lifestyle and a routine for me, which resulted in a more structured writing progress. I wrote at least 8 novels—some of them are still in early drafts, and I have even more unfinished ones, but I’m slowly working through them.
And in the end, encouraged by Inq and by the fact that I was already running a business, I took the plunge and decided to self-publish. At first, as part of my learning of the process, I made my short story collection available (it’s also free for my newsletters subscribers), and then worked on publishing my first novel, By the Pact, which came out in January 2021. It was such a great journey so far, with lots of learning, which I loved (even if figuring out the kinks of various platforms is at times frustrating).
When I was coming over to the USA, I was overweight, notoriously lacking sleep, frustrated, and suffering from occasional anxiety and feeling down. Over the last years I got my sleep schedule straight and healthy, took care of various health-related matters, and worked on getting my weight in check. As I don’t do diets or straining exercise, it takes time, but I don’t mind. I’m sure a lot of dieticians or personal trainers would promise you better results in a much shorter time, but I prefer a slow and steady change if my habits that leads to better overall health rather than a quick slimming down that often bounces back to the initial weight anyway.
All in all, I’m a happier and healthier person, and that might not seem like a lot, but in today’s stressed and unhealthy world that struggles with obesity, anxiety and stress, taking into consideration my bookworm nature, I consider it an achievement.
Looking forward to the future
With the five years mark gone, I already feel at home in the USA. The transition period is gone, and though there are likely minor adjustments ahead, I’m focusing on my goals now. I hope that in five years, I’ll be able to report on even more achievements: some of them being the result of the long-term plans I’m putting in motion.
Thank you for accompanying me on this journey and for the encouragement.
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.