Where do you go from here?

The short answer – back. Back to the UK. Like “Back in the USSR,” but not.

First, I should sum up the last three months.

Emily and I returned to the States on June 29. Since then we’ve gotten married, moved into a new apartment, and experienced soul-crushing depression. The reality is that we’re two spoiled brats. We have a gorgeous FREE apartment, Emily is getting a Master’s degree basically for FREE, and we’re able to pay the scant bills we incur. I’m back working in the Writing Center and teaching English at a technical college whilst searching for a full-time job. Emily is the graduate assistant for the entire downtown university housing authority. Both of these, while not exactly glamorous or lucrative, are great opportunities that we are thankful to have.

So why are we obsessing over a possibly childish fancy of moving across the globe? Why can’t we just be happy here? Let me count the ways. Firstly, there are few locales that contrast as sharply to Oxford as Columbus, Georgia. It’s not necessary for me to disparage this place any more. Suffice it to say that we are NOT in New York, we are NOT near the beach, we are NOT in a cultural melting pot. We are NOT where we want to be. The fact that this is a two year post does little to numb the constant awareness of these facts, and I find it impossible to avoid fantasizing about our escape.

There is another, slightly more ominous, reason for our restiveness. It was at the eight-week mark when we really got antsy, which just happens to be about the longest stretch of time we have stayed in one place over the last year. Sadly, this has defined our cultural attention span – a meager two months before we feel entitled to a new adventure. And unlike Europe, where exotic locales are one very cheap easyJet ticket away, we are not afforded the luxury of such freedom.

Were it only these two niggling problems, we could easily bide our time, plan accordingly, and move to a more suitable city when the time came. However, there is a bigger problem. Deep down, in our cores, we just do not feel attached to America any more. Returning home has honestly been a very Gulliverian experience. We cull together our trinkets and memories like we are freezing and they have some traces of residual heat that we can absorb. We pay exorbitant prices for Jammie Dodgers and Digestive biscuits to numb our overwhelming sense of loss.

Why do we love England so much? Speaking for myself, I can honestly say that I have never felt as content as I did in England, which is not a frivolous emotion for me. Contentment has always seemed continually out of my grasp; my usual emotional state of idleness trends toward the anxiously apathetic end of the spectrum. England had a curative order that I have now lost. Contrary to the numerous warnings I heard prior to leaving, both from arm-chair sociologists and the agents of our international program, I did not feel like I was in an alien society. Quite the opposite, actually; the world made sense there. There is a sense of process and purpose of which I think our endless pursuit of “individualism” has robbed us. It is sadly the utmost irony that I had to leave my homeland in order to truly feel like a member of a society.

And it would be very easy to attribute this feeling to our intensely microcosmic experience in Oxford. Make no mistake – Oxford is NOT England. In a way, we lived a distinctly English life that most English never have the chance to experience. Oxbridge lifestyle is not the norm, and I am fully aware of that. However, that is why we intend to carry out our otherwise foolish endeavor. For this is not the result of a ridiculous one-week vacation conversion, of myopic middle-class Americans who take pictures of the Arc de Triomphe and drink cafĂ© au lait for a few days and decide they must have been Parisians in their former lives. No, in nine months we experienced a fair bit more. We walked for miles in freezing rain, we schlepped our groceries home, we experienced the riots. And we miss every minute.

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~ by miyagisan on September 24, 2011.

One Response to “Where do you go from here?”

  1. Oh, Matthew. This is wonderful, and I agree completely. I don’t want to be all ‘blah blah blah I went to Oxford and it was hella better than here, you ignorant gun-wielding meatheads’, but then I feel like I’m betraying myself every time I give a noncommittal, ‘oh, yes, well, England was lovely’ kind of answer.

    You are both beautiful, brilliant, inspiring and wonderful people; Oxford made you more so (and, I think, continues still to make you more so). You didn’t quite leave it all behind. xx

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