20 January 2006

What I never wrote- "All it takes is one person" (part 3)

If you're just arriving, the first two parts to this are here and here.

This walking-around-the city phase continued for weeks, and no matter how nice the people I spoke to were, it was still discouraging to be charging into offices 3 times a day and not feel like I was getting anywhere. I started becoming a housework fiend so I could have control over something and distract myself from the fear that I was really trying something insane and impossible. I was fixated on having the laundry basket almost empty at all times, and whisking the dishes through the dishwasher the instant they were dirty. Since the summer, I have found the smell of cooled coffee grounds somewhat depressing thanks to these lonely mornings in the apartment after J went to work.

I also started swimming like crazy to counterbalance the frustration of my days, just to give me a project where I could feel and see progress. When I arrived in Iceland in May, I hadn't tried to swim (as in the crawl) since college 4 years before, when I rapidly got nowhere after discovering that no matter how fit I was, I got no exercise with my inability to breathe properly.

By the end of the two months in Iceland, I was able to swim 2k in the Laugardalslaug pool (Olympic length of 50 meters) without stopping. Yep, I dedicated myself to the project heart and soul, and thanks to the endless sun of Icelandic summer, got a tan in the process. Add my light eating out of daily nervousness and I looked fabulous when I went home. I also have recently discovered that by walking everywhere (trying to save money by not even buying bus tickets) I have an excellent grasp on the layout of the town that J is often surprised about.

The weekends with J were also great, and counterbalanced the frustrations of the rest of the days. We took little camping trips out of Reykjavík, went to concerts in town, and generally got used to each other again after being apart for the better part of a year. We cooked a lot of meals in the evenings, took walks in the slanting sunset light to feed our stale bread to the ducks at Tjörnin, and talked long into the dusky "nights" of summertime.

During the week when I got frustrated, he helped me stay hopeful, and all his friends pitched in with ideas, introductions to people, translation help, and other connections. I'm sure it was hard on him to have a hard day at work, then come home to a gloomy girlfriend and wonder if he had made the right choice to say ok to me coming to live with him.

I did make it through various levels of interviewing at a few places, and at one point I thought I was going to have to take a job that was all wrong for me, just to stay in Iceland and be a little closer to J. It was a one-hour flight away in the east of Iceland on a controversial project that I felt really wrong about. I would have been working for a month at a stretch, six days a week, in the middle of nowhere, just to have a week with J in ReykjavÌk. I was terrified of having to do it, but time was running out by this time. These people wanted someone immediately, and the guy running the show spoke no Icelandic and really liked me, but the thought of having to work at this job was one of the most depressing things I could imagine. I would have been one of about 6 women in a horde of men, isolated from any sort of town, and in company housing (what WAS I thinking in even considering it?). Fortunately, because they needed someone immediately, visa issues prevented them from extending me an offer.

On that same day I got the rejection from them, less than a week before I had to leave, I got a call from a job lead I had started in January. It was in a different branch of the same company that J worked at, and he was well-liked there so some of that must have rubbed off on me. The interview was the next day, but as it turned out I wasn't one of several candidates- I was the only one. I had come in prepared to show that I had stuff that they couldn't find in an Icelander, that I was offering a new perspective, smart, energetic, etc and so forth, but the two guys I interviewd with appeared to have already decided that. They'd heard it all from the HR guy at the company who seems to have made it his personal project to help me and J become part of Icelandic society. By the end of the meeting, we were already talking about start dates.

I walked out of there and down to meet J in a bit of a daze after this. All that anguish and walking all over the city was over just like that? It seemed like it had been such a losing battle the whole summer and then this job just sort of ... happened, and without requiring me to show I was able jump fences on horseback while knitting in three colors, or some peculiar feat of ability. I was just being me, and for once not having to apologise that I couldn't speak fluent Icelandic. The amazing thing about it all was that it was just the kind of job I would have been happy to get in the States -new challenges, nice smart people to work with, and space to grow in the future. I had been worried that I'd have to take a job that made me miserable (a la east Iceland job) just so I could be here, but it didn't happen that way.

I am certain that people are reading this and hoping for tips on how they can move as well, but I'm not sure what advice I can offer. I feel at times I was just in the right place at the right time, but that's how jobs always seem to happen, and no matter what other work you do, there's usually some unexpected source of the answer. I'm not sure I would recommend my method though, unless you've got lots of money or someone who's willing to help you out for a few months, since from job to job I ended up only earning for half the year last year. Still, what's six months of lost income when I got such an adventure out of it? 2005 was an odd, stirred-up year, but one of the best of my life so far. All the scariness I faced in the summer did what I hoped they would- I forced myself to do things I never would have if I had stayed in the same place and not tried for the move. I seriously doubted I'd pull this off, but here I am a year later almost on the Arctic Circle, where I type my blog entries with a front-seat view of the ocean. Go for it! Your story will be different, I'm sure, but it will be no less educational and interesting.

Ship sighting: enough of the graduation-speech inspiration talk! Let's talk boats and ocean pictures. Green Atlantic is slated to both arrive and depart tomorrow, but I am doubtful of that given Engey RE1 was "departing" every day for a week before it actually left. During my image-search I got into the website where the photo was, and although I can't figure out what it is (Norwegian ship-loving guy that takes lots of pictures? Harbor town?) there are some gorgeous photos that warrant a look or two.


Byron said...

Just wanted to say thank you for posting your story. I'm in a very similar position at the moment, having moved to England six years ago to study, and now needing a real proper job to stay. I understand all of this perfectly, and reading your story gave me a lot of hope after a bad day yesterday, with more rejections and seemingly pointless CV-sending. Well, I'll hang on in there. Thanks for the inspirational "graduation speech" ;-)

(Funnily enough, I have just taken up swimming as an anti-frustration distraction too - it does work!)

Alda said...

Lovely. A happy end. Congratulations on keeping the faith and making it. :)

ECS said...

Hi Byron! Glad I could help, and I hope it works out for you.

Kimberly Jean said...

thank you so much for this article.