A year ago, maybe more, in the muddle of misery that was foreclosure law and the frustration of unanswered job applications, the need for an escape was more obvious. There were plenty of reasonably good things in the present moment, but I think we need goals and destinations to structure our actions from day-to-day, or we end up drifting. At least, that has been true for me. To get myself beyond that particular period and to give myself something to look forward and live forward to, I proposed a return to England.
It was a logical destination. I’ve always hated the idea that there might be a high point in one’s life that one could never really top, like people who peak in high school and spend the rest of their lives daydreaming about when they were captain of the football team, even as everything else about their adult life is deeply unfulfilling. It bothers me for two reasons: one, that I don’t like to think that there may be nothing better to be had out of the future, and two, that it’s simply impossible to recreate the conditions under which we may once have been incandescently happy. Perhaps three, and related to one, my life has generally trended upward, from a difficult, emotionally perplexing childhood to a differently difficult but somehow kinder adulthood, so I have historically felt that there were very few moments in my past that could feasibly be seen as an improvement on the present or possible future.
But all that aside, if you asked me when I’ve felt most perfectly at home, in alignment with my goals and hopes and temperament, I would have to say when I was studying at Cambridge. It wasn’t necessarily the easiest experience, but the positive far outweighed the negative, and the memories I formed quite deliberately have remained impressed in my mind with a strength rarely attained.
And yet, it has been four years. Memories, even strong ones, may fade a bit. I think I’m becoming less of a romantic, but I hope that’s a trade off for the better, if I may be a bit less naive as well. I’m not working at a job that is essentially awful - although somewhere Dan is wondering about the veracity of that statement, since I’ve been crying to him all week about how much work has been stressing me out. In short, my motivations for this particular trip that I’m taking are less clear to me and less immediate and urgent than they were when the whole plan was conceived.
I’m looking forward to spending two weeks with Katrina, and I’m happy to see Andy after seven years, and it will be pleasant, I think, to take after some of my favorite English (by birth or resettlement) authors in wandering long footpaths. I could certainly use the vacation after a rather long and occasionally exhausting six months. But right now, on the eve of traveling, as I pause before plunging into the last bits of packing, cleaning, cat petting, and so forth that must be done, I can’t help but feel as though some of my thoughts on travel, on the purpose of this particular trip, and on the general destination have changed.
I don’t need to escape. “Here” is rarely perfect, but after the first running of the gauntlet, I’ve had a fairly gentle time of it. I don’t particularly romanticize England anymore, I think, although as a lifelong Anglophile this may be a relative statement. I’m aware that it’s not a perfect place either, and whether I’d make the effort to move there, like I once hoped and strived to do, well, I don’t know. I suppose if the opportunity presented itself, although they rarely seem to be so promiscuous as to land in one’s lap. But it’s a comfort to know that after such a long time of feeling uprooted and misplaced, that perhaps there is a sort of home to be had here, for however long that might be.
Regardless, in less than 48 hours, I’ll be in hot pursuit of magpies and the best grilled cheese in the world. Fortunately, I think Katrina is already resigned to her fate, or this would be a very long trip indeed.