When I moved from Ottawa to Algiers last September, I had just celebrated the 16th anniversary of my arrival in Canada as a landed immigrant. While I didn’t feel that I was exactly where I wanted to be, I was proud of the life I had built there. I had a career I was satisfied with, a village I could count on and a lifestyle I enjoyed. But I was longing for a change. I needed new challenges. More importantly, I longed for a slower pace of life. I blame these feelings on the pandemic. But I know it was time… To be honest, my professional life started to weigh on my shoulders. I still enjoyed what I was doing; in a nutshell, I was getting paid to read and write. But I wasn’t reading and writing things that brought me joy.
And the universe delivered. In a matter of 9 months, I quit the job I worked at for over 10 years, accepted a new position, quit that new job, uprooted my life, and moved to another country. All of that, during a global pandemic.
To say that my life has changed, is an understatement. And I fully welcome the new challenge. While there are things I thoroughly enjoy and there are others I could do without. But I’m taking it in strides.
I hopped off the proverbial hamster wheel
If I went back in time to meet my 20-year-old self, she’d be surprised to hear me say that I’m enjoying being without a job. But I am. Then again, my 20-year-old self wouldn’t call it the hamster wheel. My stress level has significantly decreased. I’m taking the time to think about my next move. I talk about this at length here.
I’ve adjusted my wardrobe
I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I now dress modestly. But, in the stres, I definitely show less skin and as little curves as possible. The latter is nearly impossible. I’ve been blessed with wide hips and the derriere to match. My goal is to stand out as little as possible, which is literally impossible: I’m often the only (or one of the very few) black woman nearby. I haven’t paid this much attention to what I wear since I was a teenager. Some days, it’s exhausting. I’ve had to remind myself that there’s noting wrong with my body way too many times.
Contrary to what you may believe, Algerian women don’t all don traditional or modest clothing. They definitely show less skin than women in, say, Canada or Haiti. I’ve noticed that younger women tend to push the envelope a little bit more.
I carry cash now
In Algeria, cash is king. In the 3 months we’ve been here, we’ve only managed to successfully use a credit card once: to pay for our hotel room in Constantine. Everything else: cash. Even our flight to Constantine! We booked online and had to go pay (cash!) at the airline’s nearby office. Honestly, I’m not even mad at this. I find that using cash allows me to better manage my finances. I have been struggling to figure out how much change I’m owed. I’m a bit rusty, but I’ll be fine. For now, I’m relying on people’s honesty.
I live a healthier life
My life is less sedentary now. I’ve walked more in the past 3 months than I have in the past year. We now live in a 3-storey home. Going up and down the stairs on laundry day is a workout. Also, I eat much better now. I’ve incorporated more fruits and veggies to my diet—and I’m pretty sure they’re mostly organic. We don’t really order takeout. When we do, the food tends to be more wholesome. We eat out once or twice a week. Restaurant food is less fatty and salty than in North America.
My muscles are a bit more toned. My jeans are looser than they were when I arrived here. I wouldn’t be able to tell you if I’ve lost weight; I don’t weigh myself.
My mental health is optimal as well. I’ve already mentioned how my stress level has decreased. Nowadays, any anxiety I experience is mostly around my writing and my grad school application. Nothing crippling.
A little over 16 years ago, I started over in Canada. I was young, broke and full of dreams. Starting over in my 40s is different. It comes with the security of having more means and more experience. But it also comes with the confidence that things are going to be OK because I’ve done this before without the clarity and wisdom that I’ve acquired in the past decade and a half.