Because really, a whole bunch of us are out here getting gone from somewhere, trying to make it work, and supporting each other through the process.
When I wanted to force a restart on my whole entire life, I started a blog. Part of me wanted to inspire an unknown audience with my personal motivation, drive, and courage. A more practical part of me needed a fear of public shaming to get moving – literally.
At the time, I was living in Brooklyn and working for a nonprofit organization in Manhattan. I felt like I was working only to pay rent and bills, just barely surviving in a city that never suited me. During my 45-minute commute to and from work, I felt trapped. Sharing subway cars with people who seemed as tired and unhappy as I was, I wanted to scream with frustration. Or cry. A few times I cried – on the subway.
“I wish I could leave this place.”
A repeating thought that was diminished to a mere wish for months. Then, maybe it was that day I made eye contact with a rat on the subway tracks who seemed to recognize me – as if he was saying, “what up, ma?” – I changed the wish into a demand.
“I must leave this place.”
I put things in motion by saying them out loud, subtly asking for approval from friends and family. I’d say things like, “I’m thinking about leaving New York, maybe even leaving the country.” Then I’d wait for my conversation partner to talk me out of the ridiculous idea. But few people did. In response, I usually heard some version of “do it.”
With a frustrating lack of discouragement, I felt compelled to at least research the idea. Where could I go? What would I do there? And how could I stay?
I plugged various locations into strategic Google searches. Among a few other criteria, I mainly looked for countries with job and/or school opportunities and friendly immigration policies to suit me and my cat, Zora. As if I ran the globe through a very narrow sieve, The Netherlands eventually rose to the top.
Although I had spent only 7.5 hours of my life in Amsterdam while on a layover a few years earlier, the decision felt right.
I wanted to move to Amsterdam. And I gave myself a year to figure out how to get the hell out of the U.S.
The process of figuring it out became my untold story. At times, I was fearful and considered giving up without ever again speaking of the stupid idea. Other times, I wanted everyone to gather around to hear my exciting updates. But really, I kept only a few people informed about my ambitious plans.
Months later my exit strategy was clear:
- apply to a Master’s program in Amsterdam
- get accepted to said program
- quit my job
- move my small, inter-species family across the Atlantic
- make a new life that would work better than the current one
The plan was sensible, I guess. But it was also overwhelming. And I don’t usually do well when I’m overwhelmed. Knowing myself and my weaknesses, I looked for a way to stay focused and hold myself accountable.
Maybe blogging was the solution. More than personal storytelling, my blog posts became status reports for friends and strangers, all of whom rallied with incredible kindness, encouragement, and support. I wrote through the good news and the bad news. I shared the exciting and the mundane. And going way outside of my normal way of being, I shared my story openly, publicly questioning my ability to change and control my life.
I poured a whole hell of a lot into that blog. And in the process, I managed to leave the U.S.
I launched Black Girl Gone in 2010, maybe late in 2009. I moved to Amsterdam in January 2011.
After more than 6 years, I’ve managed to stay gone, living in The Netherlands for most of the time (I spent most of 2013 living in Suriname, and I’ve been back to the U.S. quite a few times).
Since I left the U.S., I’ve changed course a few times. Black Girl Gone has done the same, becoming something like the travel blog of an expat who’s running a start-up business and has something interesting to say only occasionally. Although I update the blog with varying degrees of consistency, it continues to tell a story of ups and downs, fantasies and goals, setbacks and confusions. Well, just life, really – no matter where I am in the world.
At first, I thought the whole oversharing-on-a-blog thing was about me getting out of the U.S. But at some point along the way, I’ve realized it’s about me getting out of my comfort zone – and staying there.
Lucky for me, I often hear from readers who are doing the same. Sometimes we even get to meet on this side of the Atlantic. Because really, a whole bunch of us are out here getting gone from somewhere, trying to make it work, and supporting each other through the process.