If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you may get the impression that I’m living a free and easy expat life, traveling at the drop of a hat around Europe and spending every evening at the pub.
That’s true in some ways. I have been able to travel, but my travels are very dependent on my limited income (and where my friends have relatives). Yes, it’s been lovely to escape the freedom of a 9-to-5 job this year, but that also means I struggle sometimes with a sense of purpose and validation when my housemate comes in exhausted from her teaching job and I’ve just been sitting around the house all day working on articles and tidying the kitchen. It also means that I don’t have regular income or health insurance!
And yes, I do often end up at the pub with my friends of an evening, but that’s only after I’ve finished stacking chairs, emptying the bathroom trash cans and vacuuming up after a church service; or helping to lead a small group for young adults; or running a Sunday morning program for 45 hyper pre-teens.
For the real truth is that I’m doing real work here in England, and I thought it might be time for me to start sharing some of the emotional and physical struggles that have accompanied this experience. I made a major life change to spend a year in England, and the transition hasn’t been without its difficulties.
“So many people dream of just cashing in and starting over in a different land,” my editor told me when we were discussing this blog. “You get the chance to tell them what it’s really like.”
And the truth is, my friends, that walking this path is often hard. Don’t get me wrong—the decision to leave a well-loved features job and follow my heart to England was absolutely worth it. But I do miss my job, and sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever find something that’s quite as right for me again.
I miss the little red car that I sold, and the lovely feeling of freedom I had as I zipped around the city and suburbs, chasing down stories and listening to NPR. Heck, I miss driving! I’m mostly happy to ride my bike around Nottingham these days, and it certainly is good for both my pocketbook and my heart rate, but I always loved taking solo road trips. I’d drive to see my grandma in Kentucky or my aunts in Minnesota and simply treasure those eight hours on the open road, the time that was just for me to drive and think and catch up on phone calls to scattered friends and, especially, to sing along loudly to favorite CDs.
I’ll be exploring this topic more in the days to come, sharing my experiences of what it’s been like to make an abrupt U-turn in my life, knowing it will never quite be the same again. Right now, though, I’m going to combat the bittersweet nostalgia that’s crept in as I’ve written these few paragraphs by pursuing one of my favorite activities here in England. I’m going to cycle along a tree-lined bike path that’s right now crowned with misty new leaves and burgeoning pink blossoms, until I pull up in front of a favorite café. There I’ll treat myself to a cup of tea and a homemade scone, and remember that this truly English tradition is something to be truly thankful for. After all, it’s part of my inimitable English year.