We Used to Live Here: Saying Goodbye to Our First Home in a New Country


The bags are all packed; we’re ready to go. All our worldly possessions have been distilled into this: a dozen plastic totes on a fake-hardwood floor. These packed boxes are the culmination of months of longing and planning; they embody the end of one chapter and the blank page beginning of a new one. With the exception of these boxes, the flat is now bare, devoid of any trace of us. If it weren’t for the boxes, you would never know we used to live here. But as I look ahead to the future, I think we will still remember. 

For months now, I have been desperate to get out of here. I have come to hate everything about this flat, from the innumerable inconveniences to the hot water that never works to the WiFi that goes out more often than I do. For months now, I have whispered, “I’m going to get us out of here”; this mantra has been a prayer, a resolution, and a goal to work towards every day. But as much as I’m desperate to get out of here, as much as I can’t wait to move, I have to admit that there’s a tiny part of me that will miss our first apartment— or, at least, I will miss what it stood for. 

When my cats and I arrived in Southampton in August 2021, this apartment was the sum of all our hopes and dreams. It embodied our vision for the future, and our determination to make Southampton our home. This apartment was the one place that said “yes” to us amidst a sea of “no”s. That “yes” counted for a lot when we were back in the US and desperate, when every door in sight was being slammed in our faces. So, as much as I’ve come to hate it now, I want to remember that there was a time that this apartment represented hope. 

If I’m honest, there’s a lot to be said about the memories that were formed within these walls. This space is designed to be temporal— a blank, utilitarian dwelling that resists any tenant’s attempts to make it their own; this unit could be rented out tomorrow with no hint of us left behind. In spite of all that, I think we worked hard to make this little space our own. Together, we filled these walls with sunshine and laughter— and, most importantly, with memories. This is where my British cats became part of our family and where they grew from tiny unwanted balls of fluff to strong, confident individuals with their own unique personalities. 

This is where my American cats and I found our feet, where we built a life for ourselves in a new land. It’s where Liv was missing for 8 torturous days, but it’s also where my family and I received an incredible outpouring of support from the people of Southampton. This apartment has been the site of joyful evenings in with friends and days where I sobbed on the phone with my mum. These walls saw our first Christmas as a family, a day made all the more special by being our first Christmas in a new country. The view from our windows has featured so prominently in our Instagram stories that people as near as the next street over and as far as oceans away have come to recognise those windows as ours. 

In this respect, I feel as though the time we spent here and the memories made within these walls are part of something bigger than ourselves. They belong to people outside of me and my family because those people helped to form the memories I will carry away from this place. I think that’s why it’s bittersweet, saying goodbye to this place. Although we have evolved beyond this structure, and outgrew the space and the people we were when we moved in, it feels like more than saying goodbye to an apartment. We’re only moving across town; we will keep the same friends, and the same favourite places. Everything I loved about our lives in Southampton beyond this apartment will remain the same. 

Yet, it feels like the end of an era rather than the end of a tenancy. It’s a time to say goodbye to our former selves— to the bad habits that hold us back, to the beliefs that no longer serve us, to the experiences we want to leave behind. Somehow, all of that feels bigger and scarier when it takes place in your adopted country rather than the one in which you were born. Coming here in the first place was such an adventure that it feels surreal to think of taking on another enormous change. I want to leave; I’m ready to move on, to pursue bigger, better things for myself and my family. But that doesn’t make the change any less weird. 

So, when we move a few miles and a whole world away, I like to think that some small part of me will remember this time with a degree of fondness. I hope I look back on our former selves and our lives here with compassion, with empathy for who we were then, what we accomplished, and who we have become. I hope that, in time, my resentment towards this place will fade and that I’ll smile in passing when I think, “We used to live here.” 


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