and I’m feeling….
Relieved, mostly. I think that’s the strongest emotion I have after moving back to the UK. No, not relieved, glad. I’m very glad to be back, actually. Glad to be able to spend time with my friends almost every day, to see my family when I want to. Especially at this time, given that my Dad is about to undergo major heart surgery and my best friend has just had a baby. I need to be here for these things, to support the people I love. I’m so glad that I can do that now.
I’m happy too, in my new job. It definitely felt more like a homecoming than starting something new. I just somehow knew that I would fit in, that I would like my colleagues, I think there’s something fundamentally good about people who want to devote their skills and talents to serving their communities. I’m not saying there isn’t a steep learning curve; I’m having to work in a policy area that’s mostly new to me, and try to work out how to be a good manager having never really done that before either. But these are nice challenges to have; these are things I want to learn about and become better at.
And London is great. Really a fantastic place to live. I’m already getting involved in activities I’ve been wanting to get into for ages, like Ballroom Dancing, Volunteering and getting involved with a local political party. I’m busier than I have been for a long time, and that’s the way I like to be – I can count on one hand the number of ‘free’ evenings I’ve had since moving back, which makes me very happy. The more I take on and do, the more I feel I can do, it’s just how I roll. Being inactive makes me feel lethargic and depressed, as anyone who knows me can testify.
But it still feels strange, to be essentially back where I was about ten years ago. In 2004, I was single (as in, not engaged or married), living on my own in a rented one-bedroom flat, with no responsibilities other than paying the bills. It’s almost like the last ten years never happened, like they’ve been erased or something. In that time, I’ve been engaged twice, married once, bought a flat and a house, been a step parent to three children for seven years, had a dog for five years and now…all of those things are gone from my life. It’s so funny, the way people seem to think of marriage for example as though it’s a ‘happy ending’ when it’s not even an ending – as if that’s it, forever, nothing is going to change. Whether things work out or not, it’s still a beginning rather than an ending; it’s the start of a chapter, not the end of the book.
Perhaps it’s wrong to think of life as a linear progression, it’s just hard to understand circling back on yourself when you think you’ve done everything more or less ‘right'; it’s hard to accept that it can all unravel at any time. Maybe we would all be more resilient if we didn’t have these expectations in the first place, if we weren’t taught to see life as a path or a continuous journey in one direction, if it we didn’t expect it to be teleological. Life isn’t like a Prince 2 project; with milestones and deliverables and non-negotiables; it is constantly in flux and everything is precarious, we have to work really hard at maintaining and holding on to the things that are important to us.
For me, right now, that means working hard at supporting the people who matter most to me, and being strong enough to get through some very tough times that are still to come. Moving didn’t solve everything; to quote Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, that’s just geography. It has brought with it new problems, like a long-distance relationship, with uncertainty around the wait for that to resolve itself.
It’s starting to feel more like a crossroads than a new beginning.