I have to write this in a Word document because I’m not ready to publish it out there yet.
So Scott and I are thinking very seriously about moving back to the United States. Like, next year.
This is seriously mega huge for me.
See, ever since Scott told me he ‘loved me properly’, I knew that my new life was going to be in Scotland. I am sure that I must’ve experienced some grief at leaving my old life behind (and probably if I went back through my blog posts of that time, I’d find the evidence), but I don’t remember it much. Mostly I just knew that my life was about to change big time; I was going to marry a Scotsman and live the rest of my life with him, there.
So how is it that 9 years later, suddenly that is looking likely to change? How do I face that?
I can’t figure out if it’s pride or if it’s genuine ambivalence. See, part of me does feel pride. I was a 22 year old newly graduated university student who made the decision to move to another country and live another life. I was and am proud of that. I have changed so much because of that decision. I was a young girl who in under one year navigated through all the craziness of immigrating and made it. I saved up money, I filled in all the paperwork, I flew to Los Angeles to interview for my visa, I got married and I immigrated to the United Kingdom. Then I went through another crazy process of applying for my Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. I birthed my children here. I started three home businesses here. I got my UK driver’s license here. I re-learned English grammar to comply with British rules instead of American.
And I created a life here. I took that first lonely, scared, uncertain year and built a confident, fulfilling, exciting life for myself. I made irreplaceable friends. I have risen to challenges. I have overcome so many of my childhood fears and insecurities. I have become a woman here, a mother, a wife, a business owner, an actress, a supporter, a mentor, a nationalist, here, in Scotland.
I would even go so far as to say, I have become Scottish.
As I let that last thought sink in, I wonder, How could I ever revert back to being... American?
It sounds so plebeian now. It sounds so teenager. Americans, with their lame politics and mainstream religion and lack of humour and bad accents... How can I go back to that? Is it even possible? Or is it possible to go back to that place but not to that person? Can this ‘me’ live in that place and still exist?
I’ve been trying to figure out what the difference is with this decision and all the other ‘life’ decisions I’ve had to make. I mean, I know people who move constantly, in and out of the UK, all over the States, all over Europe, and they are happy and carefree. Why can’t I do that? Why can’t I just up and move like so many other people do? Well, for starters, that’s just not me. As much as I appreciate excitement and love to do things the not-done way, I am still just a homebody who wants to be settled. I don’t need upheaval to get my kicks. I like to do outrageous things, as long as they are from the comfort of a background that I know and that knows me.
I’ve made ‘big’ decisions before; of course I have. I once had to decide where I would go to university. I once had to decide a major. I once had to decide to quit my job to become a full-time mum. I once had to decide to become self-employed.
I once had to decide to get married. I once had to decide to immigrate to another country. I once had to decide if it was time to start a family.
The difference between these ‘big’ decisions was permanence. If I decided I didn’t like my university, I could go home or transfer. If I didn’t enjoy my major, I could switch. If I realised we couldn’t afford me staying at home to be a mum, I could go back to work. If self-employment didn’t work out, I’d just go back to into employment.
But, um, if marriage wasn’t what I expected (and it wasn’t), I was stuck. If Scotland wasn’t as dreamy as I imagined it (and it wasn’t), I was stuck. If having children wasn’t all sunshine and roses (and it wasn’t), I was stuck. These are the BIG life decisions. These are the things that changed my life... forever. For good. For better or for worse.
Moving back to the States? It’s for better or for worse. If I go back and hate it, I’ll be stuck.
We’ll have sold all our belongings. We’ll have spent thousands on greencard applications, citizenship claims, passports, flights, and other various yet unknown expenses. Scott will have no job still waiting for him back here in Scotland. If we make this decision, we make it forever. For good. If it doesn’t turn out how we expect it, we will still be stuck.
I know it would be the right decision for Scott. He would be so happy with his second chance, his turn to become a new ‘him’. His health would be so greatly improved, his career opportunities would open up. He could get back into the things he is passionate about - music, creating. I know he would be happier and that is half what this is all about. I then wonder if it’s the right decision for our kids. Right now, they are in a school that I couldn’t love more. Fifi’s class size is eleven kids – and that includes three different year groups. She is becoming bilingual. In fact, after hearing her little ‘puppet show’ she did for me this afternoon, I could easily say she is bilingual. She has a teacher who has the time and ability to get to know her personally, who knows her likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, her quirks and what she is capable of. She isn’t grouped into an age category or a personality type. She is known for who she is – in a classroom! I couldn’t love that more. Is it really right to take her out of that, and to deprive Lolly and their soon-to-be-born brother of that pleasure?
Or should I be looking at the bigger picture – maybe what will matter more when they are grown are memories of playing outside, living in the sun, growing an outdoor instead of windowsill garden, freedom of safety... countless other benefits to growing up in America that I have forgotten because I’m so acclimated here. It’s not as if there aren’t great schools in America, and it’s not as if bilingualism is the end-all-be-all of education.
If I can be made certain that this move is right for them, then I will not care what it means for my own personal ‘identity’. My husband and my children mean more to me than I mean to myself. I am the wife and the mother, and in my heart, that makes me the enabler. Scott, bless him, sees it the other way around; me and his children mean more to him than he means to himself. So he won’t say outright what he wants to do, because he sees himself as the enabler. He will enable us to stay here if that is what we all want to do. I will enable us to move if that is what they all want to do. I have to say, that is a good place to be in, in the long run! I also have to say, that means one of us has to stand up and make the decision, and I think I know who that person should be and what the decision is.
I need to give Scott the chance he gave me when we got married; I need to let him have a fresh new start and do something life changing.
This means we need to move back.
Millions of people grow up in the UK to be intelligent, well-adjusted, happy people. Millions of people grow up in the US to be intelligent, well-adjusted, happy people. My kids can be amongst those millions wherever we live, because they have us to help them along the way. They have sweet friends here that they love in their childlike ways, but they have the ability to make and love new friends just as easily. They have grandparents here they adore to the very deepest places in their souls, but they have grandparents there that they would grow just as attached to and love just as deeply – without losing their deep attachments to the ones they’d have said goodbye to.
My husband could be happy living in Scotland the rest of his life. Or he could be liberated moving to the US and taking control of his life. He could make the most of his life here and be happy watching his children blossom and his wife thrive. Or he could actually enjoy the days and weeks of his life, with the ease of his newfound health, the prospects of a new career at his fingertips, the freedom to indulge in music like he once did, and be surrounded still by the four deepest loves of his life.
Lest I sound like I’ve suddenly somehow re-idealised America, I haven’t. But I can see it through his eyes. It’s the same sort of eyes I saw Scotland with before I came here. Scott couldn’t see the magic and promise I saw in this country, but it was there all along right under his nose. So while I can’t see the magic and promise of America, I can look through his eyes and see what I have become blind to.
I know I could be happy living in Scotland for the rest of my life. I know I have friends here who will be friends for years to come, maybe for life. I also know I could be happy in America, because I used to be happy there. I had friends who came and went, just like I have here in Scotland, but I also have friends that are still there, always ready to take me back into their lives and help me re-adjust. I can reasonably assume that some of my friends here would be the same – ready to welcome me when I come back for visits, never ready to fully release me from their hearts. I have family I love so deeply in both countries. No matter where I go, I will have people I love and yet people I miss. That is just the way of it. So I know what the answer for us is. The answer in the end comes fairly easily.
What lies ahead is the hardest part – the slow, painful unravelling of the fabric of this life as I start to let go of what holds me here. The gradual release of possessions, unstitching the tiny squares that formed the quilt of my home bit by bit. The telling people, the lengthy beginnings of goodbyes.
The unavoidable process of detachment.