I didn’t think that moving to the US was going to be transformative in many ways. I mean, you take yourself with you wherever you go, and that broadly means taking your problems with you. There were some things I hoped it would change for the better. The destruction of the NHS, for example, is now distant enough that I feel sad about it, but I don’t feel the screaming despair. And I get home from my nursing shifts tired, not completely exhausted and demoralized.
Let me make clear, I loved my workplace. I loved the NHS and working the Emergency Department – I worked with some of the most incredibly talented and committed nurses and doctors that I could ever hope to work with. But the word challenging doesn’t even begin to cover it. The number of moments when I left work thinking “No, today is the day I’ll be struck off”. I would make life and death decisions, I would weigh the risks and then choose the slightly less risky option. I would walk a tightrope between stress and exhaustion.
And being in a job where I actually get to sit down, where I get to take break and eat my food, where I can take a breather… despite my inexperience in the US. Despite the fact that I’m still finding my way around. Despite all of that, I get more sanity than I had for years. So whilst I watch the conservative party dismember the NHS and gift its severed limbs to their mates, I can do it with a bit more detachment. It’s still heartbreaking, but I can cope better now it’s not my own heart that’s being shattered daily.
So that’s nice. And the space is wonderful. Driving home I get to see the glowing evergreen forests, and sometimes it’s so utterly incredibly beautiful that I want to cry.
I kind of expected that too. I knew it was a beautiful place. I knew that there was a danger that my commute to work would be a struggle not just because of the time, but because I’d just want to disappear into the landscape. I’d want to let the light wash over me and lie in the woodland smelling the pine needles.
What I didn’t expect is the vague but unnerving existential sense of loss. I should have, because I’ve read hitchhiker. And I’ve often thought of the ancient Arcturan Proverb “However fast the body travels, the soul travels at the speed of an Arcturan Mega-Camel.” As Adams pointed out – this would mean, in these days of hyperspace and improbability drive, that most people’s souls are wandering unprotected in deep space in a state of some confusion; and this would account for a lot of things.
At the moment I certainly feel like my soul is meandering around the west coast of the UK, or perhaps somewhere into the Atlantic, and being very very confused. Whilst sometimes I miss the UK with an almost fierce sadness, what I miss most is my mum, friends and family, Bristol, the Lake District and Amaravati. I miss the centuries of built environment crammed layer upon layer, ill fitting and incomplete, jostling each other, interrupting each other like unruly children. 60s towerblock by Victorian terrace by medieval wall. The US doesn’t do that, at least not on this coast. The Native American cultures, didn’t, at least as far as I know, throw up such vast monuments to themselves. And those centuries of building have left Britain with an adoration for things past.
Sometimes it’s really frustrating, but the angular functionality and general lack of preservation of anything not immediately seen as beautiful or meeting current requirements here is hard to get my head around.
And some stuff isn’t even that clear cut. Like… before I came out I had a real look at myself. I introspected quite thoroughly, because, lets be honest, I had spent years denying myself. I spent years denying everything about me. So when I finally started to work towards dealing with my issues and working out who I was, it took a long time. A long time and a lot of thought. And I thought I’d kind of taken myself back to the very components that built me, and reassembled myself pretty carefully. There’s a degree of brokenness, because it turned out that actually the bits don’t all fit together very well, and some stuff is definitely hodged back together in a very bodgy way. But all-in-all I was pretty happy with the self-that I built. But when I did that I didn’t really realize that it was built on a foundation of Britishness. The wonderful Professor Elemental says it very well:
“So if you’re down with the Brits then make some noise
But if you’d rather not, that’s fine
We’re inventive, accepting, eccentric
And yes, I suppose we’re a bit bizarre”
And suddenly I find myself not only the archetype for British, which as I was always weird, even by British standards, is kind of an odd situation, but I’m also questioning who and what I am if I’m not living in Britain. Am I still really British? I mean, what am I now?
It’s all about as hard as I kind of expected, and at the same time way harder in person.
Kathryn mentioned she’d seen a blog post by Naomi Hattaway talking about the effects of living abroad, and whilst I’m no-where near where I’m sure she’s at, with her triangle-self, I suspect I’ll rapidly get there.
Anyhow, so that’s partly why the quiet on here, recently. Because I don’t really know what I’m doing in my head, and some of that needs to be resolved through wittering like this, and some of it needs to be resolved through just quietly thinking. And some of it, apparently, through repairing random electrical devices. This whole uncertainty of self is, I think, is part of my recent spree of electrical repair. It harks back to a childhood activity, something I used to do with my dad. And that makes me feel a bit more like me, perhaps. Less untethered from existence.