I suppose I had best start with the obvious question, if only to get it out of the way and move on.
“How did a Midwestern girl end up in this crazy situation?”
The crazy situation is relocation to England, a land lacking a discernable economy but flush with gossip tabloids and high-street shops. The “how” part will have to remain unanswered, as I still shake my head in wonder whenever I think about it too much. But for the moment, the important part remains that I did end up here.
So yes, I am from the Midwest, was born there, attended public schools (American “public” that is, as in crappily run by the state and not requiring my parents’ money beyond taxes and occasional fees) and earned three degrees from two Big Ten universities. I spent twenty-seven of my first thirty years living in the Midwest, so in the end, I am clearly a Midwestern girl.
I don’t know whether it is the persistent culture shock or if these things really are amusing, so please humor me while I list my favorite things about being in England:
• The amazing things that people manage to carry while riding a bicycle, including babies, violins, open umbrellas, and several grocery bags
• It is, in fact, and much to my surprise, not that difficult to live without a freezer.
• People don’t seem to mind that I am American, and they do not appear to be offended when I say “elevator” or “garbage can” or eat with my fork in my right hand. In fact, if anything, they look at me funny if I utter “jolly good” or “Cheers, mate”
• The fact that it is even more strikingly beautiful, green, and full of old buildings than you would think from watching English television shows
Don’t get me wrong, it has not been all rosy. Opening an English bank account is much more difficult than obtaining either a work permit or entry visa, perhaps on par with the requirements for being awarded sainthood. My hair does not look the way it did in the states, shiny and smooth, and even when I try to tame it, it becomes damp and frizzy within short order. I cannot walk anywhere without arriving feeling damp, even when it is not actually raining.
Let’s get one other important thing straight, while we are at it. This is not one of those stories of someone meeting an attractive foreigner abroad, falling madly in love, and relocating in order to pursue a hot romance. (I love these sorts of stories, and highly recommend “Almost French” by Sarah Turnbull, but sadly am not in this position myself.) In those cases, the damsel in distress has the assistance of the charming local to help with the forms and procedures. I, on the other hand, have moved to another country on my own. I was offered a job that was way too good to even consider passing up. In fact, I accepted the job on the spot when it was offered, and only later did my friends ask me why I hadn’t even slept on the decision to move abroad alone. Frankly it never occurred to me to do so, that is just how good the opportunity was. I won’t bore you further with the details, except to say that although I still don’t know how I was so fortunate as to end up here, I have indeed landed here now and thus continue to pinch myself. And occasionally question my sanity.
I figure that I have this one chance to make my dream job work, which means the next few years are going to be really difficult and not particularly filled with activities that most people would consider fun. Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t particularly mind hard work, although I tend to work best under pressure and deadlines. But occasionally after a long string of difficult tasks I do tend to collapse under the weight of it all and shut down. Much of my existence here will be based on trying to pace myself to make that not happen. And the rest of my existence here will be all about trying to figure out how to live in England.