By: Lisa Price
Note: the title of this article is indeed a shoutout to Florence & the Machine – a song that soothed my soul SO much when I was struggling in the UK. It seemed applicable again now 🙂
Sunday 2 October 2011: To this day, I get a lump in my throat when I think of saying that ‘G word’. The word “goodbye” is simply defined as a farewell (and nothing more, in my opinion), and it’s the worst word I know.
The cold was different in London than in Ajax. I walk to the cab with a small suitcase and my mother behind me. I can’t look at her. I half smile at the cabbie who has come to take my mother to Heathrow. By the time I turned around all I could do was cry on her shoulder. “I’ll text you when I get home,” she said. “Have fun, be safe, I love you”
As I watched the cab drive away I began to ugly cry. Have fun? HAVE FUN?! I am ALONE. I know no one. I barely know the girl in the room next door who very graciously offered me a room because I’m a loser and know no one well enough to live with. Have fun?
One week later marks my 23rd birthday. I am as alone as I feel. I sit in my room and open my birthday cards, unable to save them like I always have because I cried so much that I wore the ink off. I literally laid in my bed holding these cards because they were a piece of home that I could hold.
I could go on and on, but to make a long story short, I stayed. I stuck it out. I visited home and still I came back, even though the visits home were never long enough. Even thought I always wanted to stay. So why return? Why go back to something I didn’t love? The answer was simple.
Keeping face. As a teacher from Ontario, getting a job was hard. I couldn’t bear the thought of giving that up and facing the judgment of others or what I thought they would think of me if I gave up a full time gig overseas to return to unemployment. I wanted to make sure everyone believed I had a fabulous life in London.
Because the reality is, when we say we are moving to a new place – whether it’s the next big town, city, country or planet – the response is always the same: “Omg you’re so lucky! I could never do that!” Lucky? For some. In my case, I didn’t feel lucky. I felt unhappy, alone and very, very stuck.
So, how does it get better?
What I slowly realized was this: it’s how you choose to see your adventure.
Time DOES heal: Up until my last visit last Christmas, when I knew I was coming home in a few short months, I still cried at the airport. Every single time. But time does heal. It allows us to accept our surroundings and understand that this is what it is. I eventually accepted this was my life: a teacher abroad. I was making money, supporting myself and doing what I loved. That made it worth it, and that was how I chose to see my adventure.
It wasn’t until mid-2012 that I realized life wasn’t actually that unbearable. For one thing I had made friends – friends I miss now as much as I missed home then.
Around thanksgiving 2012 I met a very wonderful Irish lady and her family. Annie had never really heard of Thanksgiving nor celebrated it before – but she knew I was homesick as it was my birthday and a holiday, so she had me over for Sunday roast. To this day I have never told her that this was the most beautiful thing anyone has ever done for me – and that is when I fully understood the value of human kindness.
A few weeks later I found myself on the phone with a friend panicking, because I was going on a first date with a complete stranger. I’d been convinced to sign up to Plenty of Fish to meet more people, so I agreed to go out on a date with a young man named David. I had never done anything like this in my entire life. Online dating was something I made assumptions about, assuming it wasn’t for me. I was wrong. As I walked to meet David, I saw him sitting in the window. He was wearing a grey sweater and jeans. He had a very gentle face, not like the other men in this town.
It was the longest and best first date I had ever been on.
Fast forward a few months later, where David and I were madly in love and things were moving fast. He asked me to move in with him just as I was starting a new job as an English teacher. I was completely in my element. I was finally content with my life in England. I was happy even. That intolerable pain of being homesick was continually shrinking.
The adventure continued, and 3 years(ish) later I woke up not feeling right. Maybe I was just tired from the past year catching up with me as I had been married to David (!!) for 3 months and life was busy as ever. But something felt different.
Once again to make a long story short – I was pregnant!
It was then that David and I decided it was officially time to go home. My journey and chapter of the UK was coming to an end.
Suddenly, I was getting that lump again. The same lump I felt when I said “see you soon” to my mother for the very first time. I was becoming homesick for England. All those times I had wished it away, I wanted it back. It was the place I met my husband and I would forever be thankful for this.
After all, it was the place where it helped me start my career, make new friends completely on my own, meet the love of my life and grow up into the confident and proud woman I am today.
It was my growing pain place. My adventure made me into who I am. I learned to date, like, and be proud of who I am – something I was so insecure about as a 22-year-old woman.
I am not saying if you want to find yourself pick up and move. Life doesn’t work like that. But what I am saying or reminding you of is this: life is what you make of it. It isn’t always glamorous or amazing in a big city. We feel the same depths of loneliness wherever we are. It is how you choose to approach this and tackle it. I chose to accept England as my temporary home and suddenly, the fog lifted; suddenly it was doable. Was life wonderful and airy-fairy every day after November 2012? Every day following David? Of course not! Is it now that I am home living in Canada with my little family? Absolutely not. Our own lives are always harder than we showcase. We must accept that everyone makes their own adventure and is what we can handle.
I am so thankful for my 4.5 years in the UK and truth be told I miss it every day. It was the absolutely hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was the best thing I’ve ever done. And I will always, always be grateful that I stuck it out.