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Dreaming Of Living Abroad Keeps Me From Building A Life In America

Dreaming Of Living Abroad Keeps Me From Building A Life In America

living abroad

Last week I packed up my passport and sent it to be renewed. As I dropped it into the mail slot, a sick nervous feeling filled me. I walked out tense and anxious, and have remained that way since. I can’t shake a lingering dread, anchoring me in place, making me feel trapped.

There’s no blue booklet resting in my desk that can be grabbed at a moment’s notice to transport me wherever I want to go. I’m landlocked, firmly entrenched within the boundaries of my own country until such time the government deems to send me a new passport.

It is of course, an absurd concern of an anxious mind. I’m far too anal retentive to ever grab my passport and go. But having that option available, my key to my great escape if life gets too hard has been a large component of my sanity.

Over the last decade, I’ve spent a combined total of around six months of my life in the U.K.. I carve out half of my annual vacation days just to go back and visit. When my life is falling down around my ears, I spend a disproportionate amount of my time on Indeed.co.uk searching for jobs, finding flats to rent nearby, and working out how many vacation days I’d need to be able to come back home to see my family a few times a year. I’ve plotted Underground commutes to the city, calculated taxes, researched the NHS, studied work visas, and even plotted how to bring my dogs with me.

If you begin to calculate the number of hours, days, and weeks spent imagining a new life for myself in the U.K., those six months become years. I’ve lived a hundred British lives in my head, from a cramped flat with a nice garden in Bath, a musty-smelling attached family home off the Isis in Oxford, a quaint cottage by a small Cornish quay, to a glen-side Hagrid hut in the Highlands. It’s where I slip off to at the worst of times, this secret place in my mind where I tell myself one day it will be true. One day I’ll move there and it won’t be just an escape route, but my home.

There’s nothing innately harmful in having a fantasy of a better life until it begins holding you back from reality. For the last few years I’ve had somewhat of a life plan. The first step was to get out of the soul crushing job that had zero security, to reach a key salary level in my next job, and when both those things were accomplished, I’d buy a house. I’m now firmly on that path. I quit my awful job and applied across industries and the Atlantic, thinking this might be my chance to make this dream a reality.

But the jobs I applied to in the U.K. didn’t get beyond the first few rounds, and now I’m firmly ensconced in a stateside position that’s unlikely to transfer me abroad. I took the job and the salary anyway and tried to ignore the niggling concern that this was the beginning of saying goodbye to the U.K.. Without that sponsored visa or a spouse, it’s unlikely I’d be able to make my move.

So I’ve spent the last few months looking for houses to buy, meeting with realtors and the bank, going to open houses and spending hours looking at real estate. In its own way it has created another fantasy world, where I live in my perfect house, decorated just to my liking, and host elaborate dinner parties. And while I’m legitimately excited about it, I can’t stop taking minuscule baby steps toward making it a reality.

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Every time I find a house that could be the one I panic. When people try to talk me into it I get insanely defensive, I start sweating, my heart pounds, and if it’s not a full-out anxiety attack, it’s damn close. Suddenly my world begins to feel very narrow, very tight, and that door to some other life in Britain is slamming shut, locking me into the life I have now. It’s an oppressive claustrophobia constantly finding excuses for why this house or the next isn’t right. “It’s too expensive,” and I won’t be able to afford to travel with that mortgage payment. “The resale isn’t great,” meaning if I manage to get a job abroad I won’t be able to sell it. There’s always something that holds me back from committing. I think of buying a house and filling it with things and that deed begins to feel like a shackle. In settling into adulthood, I’m chaining myself down with stuff that’s holding me back.

I can’t bring myself to let that door close. I tell myself I’ll just take one more trip to England this summer, one last one and then I’ll settle. I’ll buy the house, put down the roots, and let go of childish fantasies. I’ll sink my finances into something tangible and appropriately grownup instead of on escape routes abroad. Just give me two more weeks by the English sea, and I’ll learn how to turn my gaze back west toward the American dream.

And if my new passport is clenched in my fists as I close on a house, I’ll think of it as a security blanket for my new home.

 

Katie

Editor-in-Chief & Founder at Literally, Darling
Katie hails from Northern Virginia and spends her spare time blaring Led Zeppelin and trying to bake her way on to the Great British Bake Off one Victoria Sponge at a time. Her life largely consists of arguing with her dogs, running away from home to meander around the UK, and drinking her weight in tea. Occasionally she even makes time to write and edit for a living, but only when forced.
Katie
View Comments (3)
  • Hi Katie,

    I loved reading this. I’m a Brit who’d like to experience living in America, having also traveled it extensively, so I feel your pain. Given that our two nations have so much in common, it is such a shame that it’s so difficult for us both in terms of immigration and visas.

    I hope you don’t give up the dream, it really is the most wonderful place to live, just as long as you don’t mind a little rain. If you ever need or want contributors from this side of the pond, I’d love to provide a British take on things for you. Keep up the good work, I love the site. Xx

  • Dang! It’s always nice to realize that I’m not the only one with thoughts like this. Why do we always fixate on the things we say No to? The last decade of my life has been spent trying to say yes to everything (because I can!). Now I feel myself spread too thin; I haven’t advanced or built up any particular thing in my life. I keep telling myself that I just need to take one more trip. Three months in India. A year in Australia. A winter in Japan. The list of the experiences I want to have in life just gets LONGER. As the list gets longer, I get older, and the more pressure and anxiety I feel about these decisions. I want a cabin, a garden, a dog, a partner. Nurturing stability! But once I say yes to all those commitments, it means saying No to that long, extraordinary to-do list. How do we keep our whole selves happy? It’s worth exploring these feelings more. Please let us know how you like this. Why do we always fixate on the things we say No to? The last decade of my life has been spent trying to say yes to everything (because I can!). Now I feel myself spread too thin; I haven’t advanced or built up any particular thing in my life. I keep telling myself that I just need to take one more trip. Three months in India. A year in Australia. A winter in Japan. The list of the experiences I want to have in life just gets LONGER. As the list gets longer, I get older, and the more pressure and anxiety I feel about these decisions. I want a cabin, a garden, a dog, a partner. Nurturing stability! But once I say yes to all those commitments, it means saying No to that long, extraordinary to-do list. How do we keep our whole selves happy? How do we feel at peace saying No to our dreams, even when the alternative is actually pretty sweet?

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