People Do It All the Time




[It occurs to me that I could spend a lot of time trying to fill in the gaps since I last wrote. I'm not a good blogger. I'm inconsistent. I get bogged down by Life-Stuff, and by my own depression and anxiety and self-doubt. By perfectionism. By procrastination & rationalization.

So I'm going to make a bold move and not explain anything. Maybe later. Maybe in small pieces. But for now you just need to jump into the middle. Apologies for the disorientation.]


Several years ago, I was having lunch with a friend and discussing my fears about moving out of the US, to another country, all by myself. What if stuff goes wrong? What if it's a bad idea? What if... What if... What if....


That particular friend was born in Wales, and his own story is that he decided to move to the US after having spent a bit of time there working for a cruise-ship industry. He's been in the US ever since. Most of his adult life. "I did it," he shrugged. "It's not so tough."


Isn't it, then? Is it really not "so tough" to up sticks and move halfway across the world, even if you've never done it before? To be honest, it must not be. Not really. People do it all the time.


Today at work was odd. I've been scheduled some of my workdays at the teaching branch of the clinic system where I'm employed. This branch works with the senior students from the nearby vet school in Edinburgh. I had two students today: Emily was from New Jersey, and Kelly was from California. Midway through the morning, one of my clients was from Wisconsin. After nearly a year here in the UK, it was odd to hear so much American accent, all around me, all day long. I caught myself saying "tra-KEE-uh" instead of "TRAY-kee-uh" [trachea], and "VITT-uh-minn" instead of "VYE-tuh-minn' [vitamin], and suddenly felt self-conscious about it. Is that how I pronounce those words now? As Bob Balaban's character says in the film Gosford Park, "What about Claudette Colbert? She's British, isn't she? Is she, like, affected, or is she British?"


Am I, like, affected, or am I simply insufferable now?


So now I'm sitting at home, hours after the end of my shift, wondering about today's students. Emily from New Jersey & Kelly from California. Who are they? How did these two Americans -- teenagers, no less, when they decided to move to a whole other country to attend vet school -- end up here. They didn't seem especially gonzo types, no signs of larger-than-life intrepid moxie. Yet here they were, nearly four years spent living and attending university in a country other than their native-born US.


To be honest, they didn't even seem especially impressed by their own choices. I mean, I am, impressed by mine. I feel pretty damn proud of myself, if I'm honest, that I had to courage to stand up and navigate this whole process to move here, set up a life, a job, a home.... Not them, though. They're just hip & cool youngsters. Whateves. Was it maybe easier when we were younger? And if so, why? Is it all the "stuff" we grown-ups accumulate, like sofas and treadmills and houses? Is that what gloms us up? Or is it the endless future stretching out in front of us when we're twenty? "Retirement?? Man, that's EONS from now!" I mean, I'll bet THEY aren't finding emails from Social Security or AARP in their inboxes.


I confess I didn't delve too much into the American client's backstory. To be honest, I found her a bit annoying in a manner that was part of my motivation for leaving the US: a bit entitled, willing to go on & on about her dog's situation and her inconveniences, paying no attention to the clock or to the other clients stacking up behind her. Brits are definitely more stiff-upper-lip and tend to keep themselves to themselves, less airing of dirty laundry or expectation of sympathies. And she kept saying "Finally I can talk to people I can understand!" (I didn't roll my eyes. Gold star for me.) Yet here she was, as well, living in Scotland. Somehow.


So then as frequently occurs with me, I find myself envious. I wish I were more like them, those other expat Americans. I'm not even sure what that means. Maybe less tripped up in my own choices. Less self-doubt. Less self-congratulations. So I'm here. So what? I could go back. Or I could stay. Doesn't matter, really, to anyone but me.


I suppose the bottom line is that I should maybe take a page from their book, those other Americans I met and worked with today. They didn't seem bothered, so maybe I shouldn't be bothered, either. Who cares if this is a "stupid decision"? Who cares if it "works out" (whatever that means)? Who cares if I "fail" (whatever that means, part two)?


I could practice my air of nonchalance, try it on for size, a shrug, "It's no big deal moving to a new country. People do it all the time."