By Alexandra Deterte
Everyone needs friends, no matter your age. They are your safety net and support bubble when things aren’t going your way. They are your counsellor and shrink. They are your partner-in-crime, your sidekick, your secret-keepers, your bodyguards and your family. And to me, they are everything.
Recently, I went through a rather stressful and upsetting two years. In 2018, my husband was offered a job in London. We were in Wellington, New Zealand, and decided to jump on the amazing opportunity, so we started planning. The move was set for mid-March but on March 4th we received my rejected visa application, after which, we decided to apply again: paying the fees and once again beginning the three month wait. At the time that was OK. We thought we could do three months with lots of FaceTime and messages. It would be fine. June came and went and so did another rejection letter. We figured something was wrong and we contacted a lawyer for help, which is when we were told we would not be able to reapply until my husband had worked in the UK for a full financial year. The next fifteen months would end up being the hardest few months we have ever experienced.
Lots of people know how hard and draining it can be to keep up appearances. On multiple occasions I was fighting back tears, fighting the urge to scream and give up hope but I knew that I couldn’t do that. I have two younger brothers and I like to think they look up to me as the positive, calm and annoyingly-like-mum, older sister. I wanted to follow my parents’ example. My parents have been in a similar situation for almost seven years and they never complain about being apart. Their work only allows them to see each other a couple of times a year; they never seem to be upset, or at least they don’t show it to anyone, but I did not have the same experience. On the inside I was falling, and falling fast.
Then Covid-19 presented itself and changed our plans again. At least this time we were able to think about how it was outside of our control. All we could do was wait. He was so far away and I was having to sort out our third and final application attempt on my own (and with the help of our immigration lawyer of course). Yet, it was the help of two very important people in my life that helped me the most. They were there for me 24/7. They lived a forty minute drive away but that didn’t matter to them – they still showed up on my doorstep every Friday for dinner since my husband left. There were days when I didn’t feel like talking and they understood that, sometimes, just being there was enough.
My friends, who I would like to refer to as L and D, were there for me through all the stressful correspondence from the lawyer and the accountant, through all the relationship doubt and worry and through all the times I couldn’t be bothered dealing with the visa anymore. They would be there to pick me up and to get me back on track. I have known L since the beginning of high school and we have been there for each other through high school drama and now real adult problems. We are grown up, but we grew up together.
L and D had a baby boy just before my husband moved away and I threw myself at that little kid. Baby T was my smiley, cheeky and sweet little man who was always happy to see me and would always make me smile. Having such a strong connection with these three very important people, meant I was able to positively focus my energy and time on them. I could be creative again and decided to bring out some of the skills I haven’t used for quite a few years and learn some new ones too. I was able to start my sand painting and quilt making again. I attempted to make “fancy” cakes for their birthdays and while they didn’t always work out, I used Baby T as my reason to be creative; it helped me focus and relax. Knowing I was making something for him would allow me a moment to escape and be excited – it allowed me to create time for myself. Although Baby T was too young to know what I was doing, it still helped me focus on the small things and the people around me, which I could easily have lost sight of.
Although being apart from my husband was very upsetting and stressful, the time that my friends dedicated to me, encouraged me to focus on time for myself. I was able to complete my studies, start a new job, and learn new skills. I formed new friendships and built on my closest ones. I was able to spend an amazing amount of time with my family, visit my youngest brother at his Uni and giggle with my second brother even more. My family is great. All the caring questions about how my husband was and how work was going (even though I rarely knew the answer myself but would always say “great”) was very considerate and supportive but there’s something a little special about having an extra bubble of support.
The relationships I have with my family and best friends are very similar. They’re fun, supportive, challenging at times, but they’re always there. The only difference would be that I can speak to L and D about everything and anything. We went through High School together so there’s a lot she knows. I tell my mum pretty much everything already which I’m pretty sure she tells my Dad so it’s a two-birds-one-stone situation but there are times when I just need a truthful and honest opinion or a rant which I know I can get from L and D. With the time difference and awkward working hours meant that my husband and I would quite often miss each other. A couple of days would go by and we wouldn’t know how each other’s days were, but I knew if I couldn’t speak to him, I could speak to L and D. I owe everything to L and D. They helped me through the hardest two years I have ever experienced. Dealing with financial worries, constant communication between lawyers and accountants, sourcing proof for our application, rejected job applications and doubts on whether we will ever have the life we wanted in the UK – they were there for all of it. They cared for me while also looking after themselves during the pandemic and raising a lovely little man.
To me, relationships are my lifeline. Whether they are with family, school friends or friendships from work, I rely on them daily. We have been successful on our third attempt at getting my visa and I am now very happy to be finally with my husband. We have been working towards this for two years and I could not be happier being back with my other half but when my husband moved away, it left me feeling like I was missing something, now that I’m here I feel the same thing being away from L and D. Since I arrived, I have been working on my new long-distance relationship like I was with my husband. We message all the time, share videos/photos and will often share a cup of tea, and will soon be attempting a virtual games night like we used to. It’s important to me that I keep them virtually close, including my family, and we are lucky enough to be in an era where at a click of a button, they’re right there.
This article is by the fabulous, Alexandra Deterte. Alex is a tennis-club-champ, and has recently moved to the UK from New Zealand but was born and bred in Tasmania, Australia. Alex is also PA and arts administrator to Be Extra’s Director of Media. You can read more about Alex in our second Meet the Team blog post.