Last night, I visited my friend Laura for the last time before she moves to Rwanda. Most of her belongings had been packed away, and the late-night summer heat had all seemed to settle in her apartment. We dragged her mattress – the one remaining item of furniture – into the living room, where we could sit beneath the windows, hoping for a breeze.
She suggested charging people for sauna admissions.
And for the first time, the reality of impending change began to hit me. There’s nothing quite like sitting on the floor in a boxed up home, drinking wine from the bottle, and sharing an entire bar of chocolate with your friend, to make you reconsider your life.
Normally, when we plan a life-altering change, we spend most of our time preparing, and about 2% actually enacting the change – like getting on a plane, or driving away. So even as the “Big Change” approaches, life is as it’s always been, and the idea of moving remains just that – an idea. It doesn’t become our reality until it’s happening, tangible, and we can see the change unfolding around us. (I think I explained this better halfway through the Chardonnay last night).
Regardless, moving to London has been this abstract image in my head for months and months. Never my reality. But last night, knowing I was saying goodbye to my friend, and seeing a life packed away in boxes before me, finally made the looming change hit home. Laura and I met when I first moved back to Milwaukee. At the time, she had just started contemplating applying for a program that would allow her to live in Rwanda, while I fumbled through creating a life for myself again. And over the course of this year, more has changed than I could have possibly predicted.
And as my parents plan to leave my childhood home, and my brother prepares for his freshman year of college, and friends of mine all over the globe consider their next steps, I’ve finally realized that my move to London is the beginning of something entirely new and different, and that it is, actually, about to happen.
And I have a lot of emotions. Namely – hopes and fears.
What Am I Afraid of?
Or rather, the lack of it. London will take all of my money. Just all of it. No questions asked.
Balancing my workload
For those of you who don’t know yet, I’m moving to London for a Masters program centered on writing a book. But I also have another, entirely different book I’d like to complete. And my blog. And finally, a side job that will pay me to live – see fear #1.
I don’t actually like rain that much. This will be a problem. If you don’t hear from me for a few weeks, know that it’s most likely pouring, and I’m probably holed up in a cafe somewhere, eyes bleeding, trying to write, and staring at this picture.
Long distance relationship
I met my current boyfriend while living in Scotland, and given that we’ve survived the almost comical distance between us so far, I’m not overly concerned.
However, long distance is never easy, and those train tickets between Edinburgh and London aren’t exactly cheap. I’ve suggested meeting him “halfway” in different cities – Siena and Athens, perhaps – but for whatever reason, he didn’t find that suggestion very practical.
My visa won’t come through
Did you know that the UK visa process is horrendous? Beyond horrendous. Wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-panicking kind of horrendous. I’ve applied for three visas in my life, and honestly, cutting through France’s notorious bureaucratic red tape – in a foreign language – took less effort than applying for my English student visa. As an example of the lunacy, one of the questions was:
Have you already paid some of your tuition fees? (Why yes, easy answer).
Who did you pay it to?
A. Your Overseas Higher Education Institution
- Oh, that’s obviously the right one
B. Your UK Education Provider
Both…? (It was B. I think). There may be a “This is How You Actually Apply for A UK Student Visa” post in my future. (And now I’m picturing some outlandish scenario in which the UK visa officer finds my blog post and denies my visa on principle because I’ve insulted them).
What am I looking forward to?
So much culture
Bless Milwaukee’s heart, but my home “city” isn’t exactly considered a booming metropolis. As such, I’m bouncing to be back in a city filled with life and traditions from countries all over the world. And as a lifetime lover of Shakespeare (I was a weird 7-year-old) and medieval history, I will spend an inordinate amount of time at the Globe, British Museum, and scouring the city for ancient spots where I can read and write, pretending electricity hasn’t yet been invented.
Improving my photography
I’ve been too afraid of breaking it to use it yet, but my parents bought me a beautiful new camera for my birthday this year! I’ve steadily been working on improving my photography and my dad and I will be attending lessons before I leave for London. Some of my favorite days in Edinburgh involved wandering around with my notebook and camera –
I’m excited to do the same in London, though with even better equipment.
Writing my book
As I said, I’m currently working on a novel. It’s fiction and magical objects fly around in ancient cities I’ve made up. I love it. But for my Masters program, I’ll write a more serious, creative non-fiction novel, and I’m excited to have both projects to balance out my mind. Or make me go crazy. Not quite sure yet.
One of the advantages of my long distance relationship will be his free place to stay in London, and my free place to stay in Edinburgh. I’ve also planned an upcoming trip to Paris, and have more surprises on the horizon!
I fell head over heels for Paris, but it took months to feel as if I lived there, and even by the end, I didn’t feel as if I particularly belonged. That is – I knew I was in the right place at that time in my life, but I never considered myself Parisian.
London, however, has always felt like home. The many boroughs, winding lanes, vibrant street art, cozy bookshops, are all there, alive, waiting for me to find them. I love that feeling of settling into a place I love, and finding “my favorites.” The local spots within the big city to call my own, so that the baristas and shopkeepers recognize me by name.
I couldn’t decide whether to place this in the fear or the hope category, but in the end, the unknown is why I travel. Although terrifying at times, I love the unpredictability of life, because more often then not, I find myself in situations I never could have imagined.
And it’s always worth it.