Sunday, May 5, 2013

I have ALL the homes.

Then think you right: I am not what I am. – Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

Living in London and traveling England was the best thing I’ve ever done. It was magical and cold and spiritual and lonely and uplifting and cold and empowering and inspiring and cold, and most of all, I put on at least half a stone. Digestives are the delicious, delicious devil.

For all the courage and wonder England poured back into me, for all the beauty it sewed back into my seams, it did a nasty thing. It introduced the idea of discontent into a simple life. I have got two homes where I used to have one, and I am too simple for this loaded gun. To quote A. A. Milne, how lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. How lucky I am to have two such places, filled with two such sets of people, home to two such sets of memories. But how hard it is. Even so, it’s a blessing. Even when it hurts, even when it makes you so sad you feel nauseous (that’s a thing, isn’t it? Just me?) isn’t there something kind of wonderful about one’s heart being in two places at once? That’s a lot of love to go around, fools.

I was only away for a few months, and when I returned, I was thrilled to be home for Christmas, and how good that felt. I had missed snow, and my dogs, and my family, and the many simple pleasures of my daily life. Also my fat ginger cat. Obviously. But as time wears on, I feel this itch – a nagging need to return to my other home. It won’t be for years, I know. I leave in August, off to colorful Guatemala for 18 months. (And God did good by not sending me on a mission to the UK – I for sure would have bunked off in the night and stayed forever.) And after that, God only knows. Seriously. But I do need back. And it scares me. What’ll I do without my family? If we’re being honest as honest gets, here, I live with my grandparents, and they’re old. Not terribly so, as grandparents go – early to mid-seventies – but shouldn’t I spend as much time with them as I can? My brother wants to live in the States, so does my mother – shouldn’t I be close to them? My brother, especially, is my best friend. My cousins and aunts and uncles, to whom I’m all very close – they’re all here. I want to marry a good Mormon boy in the temple, and I don’t know too many of those who are willing to leave their family and country and move to a foreign place for, well, longer than two years. And even for two years, they do it for God, so I can’t quite convince myself they’d do it for some girl who will probably spend their life’s savings on merchandise at the Harry Potter Studio Tours. (I mean, £130 in one go. That’s a little bit ridiculous.)

And above all, I don’t know what God’s plan is. My deal with him – and you know just how well making deals with God goes – is that if I must stay in Utah, I’d like to stay right here. Right in my own cabin in the woods in the mountains, right here where I know I could be happy –at times a bit discontented, probably, going to the same grocery store my whole life, but for the most part, truly happy. And there’s a part of me that rather likes the idea of always buying my overpriced produce from Ream’s. Still, if I must stay in Utah, I’ve argued with Him, don’t send me out to Provo or Sandy or for heaven’s sake, Spanish Fork. Let me stay here. But my hope is that if He doesn’t keep me here (and I mean right. here. buddy.), He’ll let me go to my other home, and everything will work out. So it’s scary, because I want to do His will and I want to do what I want to do but I don’t know what His will is and I don’t know what I want to do. But hey ho, in God we trust, righto.

In interviewing for Study Abroad, I blurted that I was a total homebody. I then realized my mistake –ugh, I didn’t want them to think that if they accepted me I’d be sniveling and homesick all the time – and stammered, “Um, but I love to travel. I…I like being at home…but I,um…like to travel…too...” I thought I had blown it with that. They would think I was a fool and a baby and no Rupert Grint for me-o. The last part remains true (not for long. #DeterminationNation) but obviously my professors didn’t think me fool and childish enough to turn me away. So not that long ago, a little bit over a year ago, actually, I thought that. I thought I was a wanderlusty homebody. I’ve since discovered I’m not. I’m a homebody homebody.  It’s just that in my desperate need to travel to England, a need I’ve nurtured since probably ten years old (thanks, J.K. Rowling, for screwing me up royally. Two homes are the last thing a girl needs.), I think I knew England would feel like home. Not all of it. There were places that were not for me. I mean, you know, I can’t think of any, but I’m sure there is maybe one nasty industrial town in England I couldn’t bear to live in. Probably. Or it might all be perfect. That’s more likely.  

But in London, I found an exciting, vibrant city tailored perfectly to the fact that I’m, you know, 19. I want to try food that makes me sick and see plays that make me cry and nearly fall into the Thames (but actually) and, most especially, see gorgeous men every day of my life. Most especially. But you know what? I didn’t love London because I’m, like, so cosmopolitan and such a traveler. I loved it for the sweet man who ran the corner shop and always recognized me and asked how I was doing. Probably because he was concerned I would one day OD on Coke and McVitie’s. “Y’all right, love?” Translation: “I see yesterday’s Kinder Eggs have already caught up to your chin. How about some nice fruit and veg, love?” I loved it for Mark’s & Spencer’s (I’m looking at you, Veggie Percys.) I loved it for the Starbucks I threw ALL my money at every morning and the baristo (is that a thing?) with the excellent Cockney accent, and also for the smiley Polish girl at Paul Rhode’s who I never, ever, understood. I loved it for my Southbank, which was apple cider and honeycomb at Borough Market and the Mexican Street Kitchen (hello winter veg burrito!) and the Thames and Southwark Cathedral and those sweet roasted nuts on Millennium Bridge. There is an embarrassing wealth of food-related things on here.  I loved it for Kensington Gardens and Ben’s Cookies and I loved it overwhelmingly for The British Museum, which rocks and is the coolest and if you don’t agree then you suck. Sorry.

The point, my friends – yes, astonishingly, there is a point – is that I loved my routine, I loved the BYU London Centre, I loved the million little daily things that made it feel like my London, my home. Just as my home in the canyon makes me feel warm and loved, just as the astonishing where-have-you-been-all-my-life-ness of Ambleside makes me feel both cosy and alive, I felt like London loved me back. I’ve got a book, an oral anthology, called Londoners, it’s bloody brilliant, and there’s plenty of people that don’t feel that way. London couldn’t care less, they feel, and, you know what? I forked over a large sum of cash and then mysterious BYU travel peeps arranged a (pretty bloody posh) living situation, transport, dinner almost every night. It was a bloody good gig. So I’ve never really had to fend for myself in that big grey city. I can absolutely see how it would drain you, and especially if you’re from the country. Even I plan to head to Ambleside after, tops, ten years in the city. But five and a half months later, London is still pulsing, pulsing, pulsing in my blood and I may be wrong, I may be too optimistic, I’m sure as heck naïve – but I think I’ve got enough of London in my system to survive, and, dare I say it, thrive.

I just hope I got to go for more than the incredible experience. If that was all, if God was like, yeah, everything can fall into place for you to go just to like, renew you and fulfill this dream of yours, then okay. If He’s got a different plan, a plan that doesn’t involve that green island, fine. I can deal. I can trust Him. But I hope You sent me there to prepare me for a life there, Big Guy. I really, really do.

I am not what I am, yet. I’ve only been alive 19 years, there’s only 365 days in a year, I was not really fully functioning for at least 5,840 of those days, I actually doubt I’m fully functioning now. At least, I hope this isn’t my mental and emotional prime. That would be embarrassing. I would almost certainly be a divine fluke, in that case. Put this one back on the assembly line. But if I am not what I am, yet, then I am slowly getting there. England was an essential part of that. That place is now an essential part of me, and I know it sounds silly, and I know it sounds dramatic, and I know I was only in England for a little over two bloody months, but they were the most insane and incredible two months of my little life, they really were. When you’ve only been around 233 months, 2 (plus that other spare fantastic month floating around, called France and Belgium and the Netherlands) that are so drastically different from the other 230 are actually a big bloody deal. I wouldn’t be me, a terrifying thought, without London and everywhere else, I wouldn’t be whoever I’m going to be without it, either. I am not what I am. But whatever I am to be, there’s this beautiful place thousands of miles away that is going to be part of it. There’s this country called Guatemala that’s going to be part of it. There are a hundred other places and people that are going to be part of it that I don’t have a bloody clue about yet. But I am so stoked about all my homes and all my people and all my transfigurations. Change is the actual scariest, but it’s also the actual best. And there’s something wonderful about not knowing a bloody thing about the future.

Dear Heavenly Father,

As long as said future involves England.


P.S. I promise someday I’ll learn not to try to make bargains with you.
P.P.S. Just as long as you send me back to England.

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