That is as close as I can come to the time frame of exactly how long i have lived in the UK. 13 months, 11 days and about 4 hours. When does it feel like home? When do I stop comparing the US and the UK? This morning I drove my parents to the airport. Brand new Terminal 5. After a tearful goodbye, lots of hugs, and a 15 minute argument with the gate worker trying to get out of the car park (I won, it was free!) I started my drive into the office. and the tears fell freely down my checks. Not so much because I was saying goodbye to my parents, I will see them in another 7 weeks for Thanksgiving, but more because they are going home. Home to America.
On the one hand, I have had many fantastically wonderful moments about living abroad. So many unique and blessed experiences have presented themselves that would not have even been an option had my first year of marriage been in the states. That is true for us as a couple as well as individuals; Rhys would not have been able to continue playing rugby at such a high level, we wouldn’t have been to Spain twice in less than a year, I would not know the joys of Camden Town and free, albeit slightly shady, Chinese food. So many great things about living here.
On the other hand, I have experienced the overwhelming sense of loneliness that comes with the transition from citizen to ex-pat. The idea of living abroad in an thrilling, exotic location is often more exciting in theory than in reality. It is that strange pit in my stomach that comes when I realise that I just said 'pants' and everyone thinks I mean underwear; or the anger that rises up like a slow, burning flame when people tell me I should just say I am Canadian because no one likes Americans anyway, or the funny knot in my throat and slight glimmer of a tear drop in my eye when its 10.30 at night and I really want a bottle of chocolate milk, a Q-tip, peanut butter and some wheat thins yet have no place to buy them because all the stores are closed and even if they were open, half of those things are not even sold in the UK. It's the strange feeling of always having a funny accent, never quite knowing the appropriate cloths for the right situation and thinking, probably more often than i should, "well in America...."
I wouldn't trade one minute of the roughly 585,440 minutes that I have lived in the UK. it has been an experienced that has shaped me in ways I probably wont even begin to understand for years and years. Perhaps it is my parents recent trip that has made me more aware of the differences. Perhaps it is the fact that I hate my job possibly more than anything else in the whole world and all my friends in the US seem to love what they do. Not that it means there is a direct correlation between America and having a good job, but in my head that is exactly what it means. A few months back I wrote about being aware of the expectations I came with and trying to fight against those, accepting that this is a different culture and a different way of life. But maybe some of those are so engrained in me, so much a part of what i want for my future, that its hard escape them.
All of that to say that, as my time has now probably increased to 585,451 minutes in the UK, I will continue to love the great things and struggle with the hard things. Same as any person, in any country....
*as a side note: After posting the above, I went to the My Utmost for His Highest website to read the devotional for today. That was exactly what I was meant to do. Below is a small excerpt and a link. go read it. It is worth it.
"We are not made for the mountains, for sunrises, or for the other beautiful attractions in life— those are simply intended to be moments of inspiration. We are made for the valley and the ordinary things of life, and that is where we have to prove our stamina and strength."