I felt a click the moment the wheels lifted off the tarmac. As in: it’s too late, there’s no turning back now. The frost on the airplane window is telling me this is no longer your home. I watch London’s close packed grey roofs fade into squares of white, cordoned by dark green hedges. All of England seemingly covered in crisp snowflakes, never more beautiful than in this exact moment, gazing down from my window seat. Beautiful because it’s no longer mine. It is like the country I love so dearly is sending me a white flag of surrender, offering up a final goodbye. Or maybe the snow is a celebration (of me leaving? or of my years here?).
It’s December 12, the day my visa has ticked down to for the last 30 months.
The lump in my throat at having to leave England is balanced out by my tentative excitement for what’s ahead – career prospects, a slower pace, reconnecting with family and friends in Michigan. I have grown more critical of England over the last two years. Side effects of getting older, working in the NHS, living through Brexit, and meeting people outside my own political and ideological bubble. England is not perfect – it’s not all disco lights and midnight cheesy chips and Jane Austen on a mountain the way I knew it as when I spent my first year at Exeter. No. It’s also loneliness and waiting times and racist slurs and a bubble even thicker than my own, which I happen to be on the outside of. But for all its flaws, including that fatal one of, y’know, deporting me, I love England. England is where I am my best self. It is the country that I became an independent adult in, and it is where I have been my happiest. England is cold sea swims, rain on the roof, the spread of marmite on toast, walking hand in hand with Dan.
Whilst there are things about England that frustrate me, it still calls to me from a deep place. I think of the American woman I met at a bar in Athens four years ago, who said she stepped off the plane and knew this was her place, and never left. England is my Athens. There is an essence to England that is – to me – home, and has been since the moment I stepped foot in it four years ago. An intrinsic English-ness, formed by centuries of stories, something that will still be there in hundreds of years. A magical permanence. So while the lump in my throat remains, I am reassured that England will always be there for me. Maybe not as a home with a house and a job and a routine and healthcare and a bank account. But a home in a more ethereal sense.
And maybe I’m being naive, but I know my own story with England is not over. I’m confident I’ll be back. Not desperate for my return the way I was when I left Exeter after I studied abroad in 2013, but a calmer and more mature, reassured confidence. I will find my way back to you, beloved England.
Oh and P.S. Because I’m feeling nostalgic, let’s go retro. You can read my very first post about moving to England, appropriately titled “I’M AN EXPAT NOW”
Beautiful words, Sarah! You are so right, that nowhere is perfect, but that really doesn’t stop it from becoming ‘your place’. Because the imperfect, is perfect, isn’t it?
It’s been so great to follow along with your living abroad adventures and I’m excited to see where life takes you now 🙂 Big hugs for the next new step!
Thanks Marcella 🙂 I think it took me a while to realize that – I kept picking out flaws in England, I think partially as a coping mechanism for my eventual leaving. But even though I am now so much more aware of England’s flaws, that hasn’t really affected how much I love it. If anything, it feels so much more like a real home now than it did after my first year living there. And thanks for the hugs 🙂 I’m exciting to keep sharing stories here, even if they will no longer be about living in England!
Love this. England treated you well, indeed. Hope you come back soon, but if not, I’m pretty sure wonderful things are waiting for you at home!
It really did, and I am so lucky for that! Yes, I’m really looking forward to the future actually. Sad about leaving England and no longer being in the same country as Dan, but there are exciting things ahead I am sure!
I hope you will go. I have never been to England but I have always wanted to. And it sounds like it’s as much of your home as anywhere else, even if you don’t actually live there anymore. #wanderfulwednesday
Ah thank you 🙂 Yes, it will definitely always remain my home.
Beautiful, emotional post. I have SO BEEN THERE. I know these bittersweet feels so painfully well. The day I had to leave Berlin for the States was my December 12th. Actually, I think it might have even been that exact day ten years ago (weird!!). Of course England will always be your home. You will never be a tourist there, and you can always come back for periods of time. It won’t feel the same, there will be different people and different bars will have opened in the place of old ones…. but you can create new experiences when the time is right. Safe trip home and enjoy Michigan! Looking forward to reading about what is next for you in 2018.
Ahhhhh thank you Cynthia. LOL December 12 the day of deporting sad little American bloggers from Europe lol, it must be a conspiracy 😛 Your words are really comforting Cynthia and you are so right – it will never be the same but that’s neither a bad or good thing. And like I said I know my story with England is far from over 😉 I’m looking forward to 2018 too, and sharing whatever is next for me!
you’ll be back, I’m sure:) lovely write up
Aww thanks Tanja <3 I'm pretty sure, too.
I’m glad you’ve had a nice time and that you’ll be back here again some day! I know it’s got its good bits and bad bits but I definitely share your idea that it’s a home. Since travelling I’ve definitely learned that again and love it even more because of it!
Have a lovely time back home, I’m sure they can’t wait to have you back!
Daughter of An Air Hostess // Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle
Thanks Josie 🙂 Yes, the heart definitely grows fonder with distance! Which is one reason I am excited about returning to my home in the States. Traveling is amazing, but the downside is leaving your heart in multiple places across the world!
Beautiful post! I can totally understand your love for the country and it must be so heart-breaking to leave it. I’m sure you’ll be back, though!!
Yes, it’s pretty sad. But I’m also really excited for new adventures, and I’m pretty confident I’ll be back some day <3
This is such a beautiful, heartfelt post. I felt the same way when I left England almost 3 years ago, although I wish I’d written it as well as you did. I’m now back in England, and I’m sure you will too! 🙂
Ah thanks so much, lovely. I hope you are loving life back in England, that’s amazing that you made it happen 🙂
I love your photos of snow in London! Moving away from an expat home is so difficult–good luck with your transition back to the US!
Thanks so much Elizabeth. So far the transition is going pretty well!
Girl, I hear you. That’s how I felt when I was living in London, but I was given ILR and I left.. I left for reasons different to you, but you will create a new best self in a different place…! Good luck back in the US! And there are also other places you can move to!! 😉
Ahh thanks so much Julie 🙂 And yeah, I’m working on it 😉
Holy cow, this just got to me real good. I still have two and a half years before saying goodbye to Scotland, but I already don’t want to. It’s in no way perfect, and the weather is disgusting, but this place is home to me.
Hahaha I know the weather right?! Like it’s gross but I love it?? Anyway, you’ve got lots of time to figure it out, who knows maybe you will end up staying in Scotland or move somewhere even cooler!
I find your perspective of discovering the flaws of your ‘place’ and loving it anyway so interesting. I am having similar realisations about my ‘place’ and I’m chalking this up to a necessary stage of expat life. It’s still my new home and I love it dearly but the rose tinted glasses have come off!
Love the snowy Neals Yard. Such a pretty part of London. Also thank you for the reminder of my lovely home country, which I chose to move away from but am still extremely fond of. Good luck with what comes next!
Yup, I definitely think it’s a stage! And it took me a while to get there, only until the second time I moved to England. And thanks, Rachel. Things are going pretty well so far 🙂
A beautiful post! I have grown to feel the same about living in Scotland, critical and yet it’s home.
It’s funny how that happens, but I guess that’s the true sign of it becoming “home” and not just some dream destination you happen to be living in 🙂
I was very much the same with England – it just felt right. You’ll be back!
I hope so!