Today is my anniversary. Not with Chris, but with England. Today 8 years ago I landed in England to live.
When we moved here I had a lot of ideas about how my life would be. I thought that in 5 years we would be back home. When we moved back to Utah, Chris would have a degree, We’d have a few kids, and we’d have a substantial nest egg and a lot of life changing experiences under our belt.
Well…. God had other plans for us – boy, did he have other plans for us! 8 years on Chris finally has his degree and is finally starting a job where he is actually using it. We have zero kids and are now living life as a family of two. We, like so many others, live pay check to pay check but we absolutely do have a lot of life changing experiences under our belt!
I have been thinking of that day 8 years ago a lot this last week. Maybe it is because the weather is almost exactly the same as when I first got here or maybe because I don’t know how many more anniversaries here I’ll have.
I will never forget the day we landed. The night before I left was full of tears and doubts. Chris very nearly went to England on his own with me staying back in Utah. Chris and I didn’t fly to England together because we booked the flights at different times. Chris was on one airline, and I was on Air India. I got on the plane and put my ear plugs in and promptly feel asleep – FOR THE WHOLE FLIGHT – which never happens to me. At one point in the morning the flight attendant woke me up to make sure I was okay and offer me some food and drink. I was so sad leaving I didn’t care if I ate ever again! We landed and I made my way to the meet up point Chris and I agreed on. Chris was landing a bit later and we’d meet up there to take the tube to a tube station further outside of London to meet his dad who would be taking us to his house. I waited and waited – I didn’t have a mobile phone to call Chris to find out where he was, so I just stayed put even though the time was passing and I wasn’t seeing him. Finally I saw him coming towards me – sweat dripping down his face, luggage in hand, and a look of anger on his face I’d never seen!! He had gone to the wrong terminal and had to travel around the airport looking for where I was waiting. I didn’t know what to do, but I followed in silence. We managed to get the luggage on the tube and make our way to Redbridge Station. This was my first experience of England in the summer – the other times I had been here were Autumn and Christmastime. It was an unusually hot summer (the start of many) and I learned very quickly that no where had air conditioning. When we finally reached Chris’ dad’s car I was ready to turn right around and get back on another airplane. I was hot, tired, sweaty, homesick, and wondering what I had gotten myself into. As we drove to our new house, I remember Chris and John in the front of the car, and me laying in the back seat (black leather – very sticky in hot weather) and crying.
I don’t remember many details about the following weeks. We moved into a caravan in the back garden of the in-laws house and I tried to cope. It was hot and I was miserable. I remember one night not long after I had gotten there, sitting on a lawn chair outside the caravan in the cooler evening weather. There was a nice breeze and I was reading a book called, “Living in the United Kingdom” – it was supposed to give me all the answers I needed to live happily in England. I remember looking up at the blue sky with the clouds that seem so much lower here and saying out loud, “How am I going to do this?” with tears streaming down my face. I thought that the hole in my heart from the homesickness would swallow me whole.
So here I am 8 years later and it hasn’t been easy at all. It seems like we’ve been tried in every single aspect of our lives here. We’ve been down as low as you can go financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally.
But, it hasn’t been all bad! We’ve travelled more than most people I know. I have a great job. I’ve started a website that has changed my life. I have sweet bunny Sugar. I’ve got to serve in the church in ways I probably couldn’t have in Utah. I’ve made a few friends. I can drive a stick on the wrong side of the road – I can pretty much drive anywhere. I’ve gotten to be an influence in the lives of children. I’ve learned a lot of new recipes and traditions.
Most importantly I have made it. Chris and I have made it – together.
I can never be one of those people who say, when looking back, “I wouldn’t change a thing!” Because I would – oh I would change so much – the list is longer than anyone can probably imagine. But, its made me the woman that I am. I am a stronger person now, having lived away from friends and family, then I would have ever been in Utah. I have learned so much about myself, about God’s plan for me, about my marriage, and about other cultures. I’ve learned to budget money, travel alone, deal with difficult people, gain my own testimony, resolve conflict, and manage homesickness – among so many things.
I have also gained an appreciation for my friends and family that I never, never would have otherwise had. I cherish phone calls home, I say – “I love you” to my family always (I never did before), I know what its like to loose a loved one and be so far away, I know how lucky I am to have true friends (a lot dropped off the face of the planet after a few years), and I know how much a letter, card, or package can mean to someone who is struggling to stay above water.
I am hoping this will be my last anniversary with England. And, I will miss this place that has reluctantly become “home” (as much, if not more, than the place I came from). But, I am lucky to have experienced life here for the last 8 years. So happy Anniversary England (I wont get too upset that you didn’t get me a gift)!