6.01.2007

I Do Want to Change the World. I Am Looking for a New England.

So, a post on facing The Big Decision over the Move Back To England is long overdue. I have avoided writing on the topic because it's just such a doozy for me, but at the same time I know that if I sit and sort through it all--in writing--I will be better off. So, where to begin? How about the fail-safe Pros and Cons list. How can I lose?! Yes. I will write a pros and cons list and then everything will be clear.


Cons (i.e. reasons to stay put...)
1. Our Home. Not our house, but our home. I do not have any family in this country, and my husband's is also remote. But somehow we have managed to find ourselves with a (if I do say so myself) gorgeous older home in an honest-to-god Community. Our neighbors have become our dear friends. In fact, we call it the "Enablerhood"--we skit across to one another's houses, kids in tow, Flyer wagons loaded with bottles of booze and delicious snack-food items, and then wax lyrical (after a few tipples) over how lucky we are to live in the 'hood and to have found this commuuuuunity. (Yes. I am commuuuuunity obsessed, even in real life). When I was preggo with Baby Boy, we did not have to think twice about enlisting the help of neighbors to jump into action when we hotfooted it to the hospital, and our 4 yr old did not bat an eye over "sleeping over" next door while mummy had the baby.

Our home. i.e our friends. It would be very hard to leave this part of our lives behind. (though they would have a great vacation destination, no?)

2. And also our house. Our things. Though life is much more than material things we collect around us, it's pretty hard to just cut loose from it all. I LOVE MY THINGS!!!! Our house is an old colonial, and by British standards it is large and airy. It's got green siding and cherry red shutters and shiny red front door. (sniff...) It has several bathrooms and a big fat ass refrigerator, and is just easy to live in... Could I ever, ever go back to not having a downstairs loo??? It is also filled with things like furniture, and pictures, and bedding and curtains. There would be a day when we'd put price stickers on it all, and open our home to strangers and let them cart it away for the right (or wrong) price. GULP. And the minivan. The mini-vaaaaaaan!!!!!

3. Income. Income is good. We have one. We have jobs, and they pay the bills. We live comfortably, and we both quite like our jobs. And the cost of living here is so, so much cheaper than the UK, where the housing market is through the fucking roof. Income in Britain, so far, is a very uncertain thing. Though ideally one of us would get a job before we made the move, realistically it's very hard to compete for a position when you are across the Atlantic. A move over there would likely take an enormous leap of faith. It's a frightening prospect, especially with two children. I am sure we can make it happen, we do have skillz after all (as long as we're not looking for academic teaching jobs, which are pretty much out of the question--but there are other interesting options).

4. America The Beautiful... Say what you want about this country, but it's a pretty amazing place, and it's been good to me. It's a cliche, but American is just friendly, and you only have to be back in the UK for two minutes, growled at by a surly shop assistant and you're off dreaming of the days when you were being stalked around Macy's by someone with a "canIhelpyou??" grin plastered on her face. I would miss "Have a nice day" because though it is a nicety, in my experience people actually mean it. I would miss not being asked by the supermarket cashier "how are you?" and saying in return "I'm fine. How are you?" I would miss my OB-GYN office and its soft furnishings and roaring (gas) fire welcoming me in the waiting room. I would miss humane dentists.

Ah. yes. I am not even gone, and I am idealizing already... I'm going to have to watch that.


So. The pros (i.e. why we should do it):
1. My family. Now with two children, yearly visits from/to the grandparents just seem woefully inadequate. Now, with two children, I know how awful it must have been for my mother and father to pack me off on that plane (gulp) fifteen years ago, 21 and clueless. I was meant to be here for two years, and since then all the big life announcements (I'm engaged! I'm pregnant!) have all taken over long distance phone calls, as have the moments where my father has undergone triple bypass surgery, or when I am told that one of my grandparents has passed away... and "people will understand if you can't make it to the funeral..."

Last week at school, my 4yr old had to answer "Does your Mommy have any brothers or sisters?" And there on that sheet of paper was his answer: No.

I have a brother. Did you know that? Yes. One baby brother. And he and his partner had a baby two months ago, a baby I have never seen except through digital photos, and who I am not likely to see until at least Christmas. Of course, Jack does know about "Uncle Jonathan" but he's not seen him in 18 months, and so he...forgets.

2. It's Time to Move On. Despite loving our house and our neighborhood, we have lived in this area for as long as I have been in this country. If you had told me at 21 that I would be settled here with a spouse, a mortgage, two children, a lab, and a minivan, I'd have laughed in your face. And then I would have become very, very afraid. And then I would have become hysterical.

We've made a great life for ourselves here, here in Lansing, Michigan. This is home, and we love much about it.

Do we want to be here in five years? In ten years? I am not so sure.

And I come up with the same answer when I look at my job. Again, I love my work, and enjoy the people I work with, but in many ways I have gone as far as a non-tenure tracked academic can go in a position like mine. I attended Grad school here, and in many ways, until we make the change I will feel like the eternal faker, and the Old Man often feels the same way.

3. Custard Creams and Cadbury's chocolate in plentiful supply... And Sarah, a sweet and funny blogging friend, a Kent girl just like me, sent me a care package containing those items this week. This, along with her stunning photographs of the countryside where I grew up make it very hard to not feel homesick...





Damn you woman!!!

Uhm, Yesh, Mmmm. (gulp. swallow...) Damn-You to hell.

(THANK you Sarah!)

Well. No doubt this little saga will rear it's head a few more times in the next few months. (months? years?) But right now my head is filled devising a master plan for our return in the next year to eighteen months. The paperwork alone is mindboggling, not least because ironically I find that if we do it, it would be a very good idea to become a citizen of the U.S.A. before we go, because if we ever change our minds, or the boys want to take up residency here as adults, it would be very difficult for me to come back. The Green Card would go "poof!" after 364 days. Yikes!

Fact is, if we are going to do it, it has to be soonish, before my boys get older and then hate me forever for depriving them of basketball and "football" and baseball and, and....make them speak in poncey English accents, or worst still, make them objects of derision because they say "budder" and "blahg"

Oy. The handwringing.

On the other hand, it is also exciting.

Thanks for bearing with me, folks. I'll keep you up-to-date.

(and, God, even clicking on "Publish" is frightening--somehow commits this as something very real... Gaaaaah!)


34 comments:

Amanda said...

That really is a lot to weigh. No matter what you decide, it's all quite impressive---the community and life you've created here without the help of your real family. That's an accomplishment that you should be proud of, no matter what. If you could manage that, you can manage anything, regardless of what side of the pond you ultimately land on.

Miscellaneous-Mum said...

oy. thats a perfect word.

Not that we're moving, but if we were, we would be facing those same sorts of questions. I daily sway between all the pros and cons in my mind because I am not living in my 'natural habitat'.

Good luck with it all. (hugs)

[or are (hugs) too girly? too bad, you got one!]

Marmite Breath said...

You're preaching to the choir here, ducky.

However, we have no plans to move there right now since the U.S Navy owns our asses.

In fact, I couldn't even write about my trip properly because my head is swimming with all of the drama of not being able to live there.

*sob*

slouching mom said...

Oh, so tough, darlin'.

I have no advice to offer, but I will be here reading and empathizing as long as you're writing and whatever you decide.

Julie Pippert said...

ARGH! Blogger ate my comment. Down for maintenance my unhappy rear end.

Okay let's see...

It's a tough call.

Do you feel any enlightenment after listing out your pros and cons?

We made a move "home" (my husband's hometown, nearish to my family, all of whom are all over, actually) about three year ago. We're undecided if it was the right thing to do b/c there have been pro and cons. We don't regret it, though. We like a lot of what we got and miss what we left.

I had a job opportunity in England---nearish to Cambridge. I did some research on the area, esp. housing and schools. After I shit twelve gold bricks (luckily since that much was required for a realtor to speak to you) I decided not to go with that job (also luckily since shortly thereafter the company hit some trouble).

I told hubby if he wanted abroad that returning to France was more likely since I'd rather Breton women hit me with loaves of bread for mispronouncing cheese than live in a cardboard box under a bridge.

I think I'm just sorry we had to decide so quickly. Hubby got the job offer and we said, well it's all perfect on paper and so we thought it would all be good. Then we had to move very fast! I don't think we had (or took) proper time to reflect and evaluate, understand what we'd leave, say goodbye, etc. I'm so used to looking forward, I forgot to spend time in the moment.

So take your time.

I wish you luck in deciding. And of course good wishes regardless of what you do.

Mrs. Chicky said...

Wow. That's not an easy argument to have with yourself, is it? However, if you move can I have your house? I would really love to live in that type of commuuuunity.

Mad Hatter said...

I shouldn't give advice. Giving advice is bad. Deep breath. Living a country away (not to mention a continent) from your parents when...

Ug. I shouldn't give advice.

Stefanie said...

Wow that's a tough one. I have family right here in good old L.A. that can't be bothered to be in my life (other than my adorable brother and sister-in-law) my mother wants nothing to do with me or my brother or my beautiful daughter so I will never have to make a decision on family cause family is where I find it. But good luck to you!

Mary G said...

I moved far away from my parents,too, and many times they had only two visits a year. It's stinking hard! I was lucky to be able to solve the aged/ill parent thing by moving them to where I was. Not a perfect solution, but the best we had.
The housing and cost of living thing is also a stinker. One of my kids jumped the pond to Scotland so I know whereof you speak.
I have my father's flipping coin for moments of decision. All the time I lived at home we flipped that coin to see who got to dry the dishes and who had to wash. I seem to remember that I always lost. If you want to borrow it, just let me know.

Lawyer Mama said...

That's a really tough decision. T and I had a chance to move to the UK shortly before I became pregnant. I think ultimately we decided not to do it just because the grandparents would have killed us.

Oh & this - "I would miss "Have a nice day" because though it is a nicety, in my experience people actually mean it." I can soooo tell that you live in Michigan and *not* on the East Coast!

Virtualsprite said...

I can't imagine living an ocean away from my parents and yet I would love nothing more than the opportunity to live abroad. It's tough... but something will come along that will clarify everything for you. Good luck.

Amanda said...

Some would probably call the way I approach these types of massive life altering decisions as cavalier, I prefer to think of it as making the decisions that best suit my family at any given moment. I am thrilled you hit publish, witnessing this kind of journey, first figurative, and then, perhaps, literal, is incredible.

Bravo!

Christine said...

Wow. That's big. I mean BIG. But, to sound a little cheese ball here, you'll know what the right decision is soon enough.

And i get the family in the 'hood. We have that here, too. Don't you just love it?

Izzy said...

Arrrggghhhh! We debate the "let's move" idea all the time and we're just stuck; mired in this quicksand of indecision and probably some fear, too.

I'm functioning more under the premise of "nothing ventured, nothing gained" while the huz is more centered on avoiding any situation that would warrant that other cliche "out of the frying pan, into the fire." So...we do nothing.

Is this helpful? Prolly not but just wanted to say that I understand your dilemma :)

Fairly Odd Mother said...

Shoot! When I saw "New England" in your title, I thought, "Whoopee! She is moving to Massachusetts!!!!!"

Best of luck on what you decide. My inlaws only life in Florida, yet we only see them about 1x/year and it's HARD to keep them 'alive' to the kids. My mom came to this country at 20 and is still here at 65. I know she wonders "What if" from time to time.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I had no idea you live in Lansing. I pictured you in either Chicago or New York or someplace more... I don't know... cosmopolitan than Lansing. Not to knock Lansing, of course : )

It does sound exciting! Staying, going, both sound like great options!

Her Bad Mother said...

I know that as your friend I am supposed to weigh in with all sort of wise reflection and supportive comment, but I am too distracted by the fact that ENGLAND is MUCH FURTHER AWAY from Toronto than MICHIGAN.

flutter said...

If you go can I stow away in your luggage?

mamatulip said...

Having just moved, and having just had the move be a complete and utter disaster that we are still reeling from, the thought of moving abroad makes me throw up in my mouth a little for you.

But...I can totally see why you're considering a return. And really, what you've built here for yourself and for your family, you can build there, too. Whatever you end up doing, I'm hoping for the best for you guys.

Bon said...

oy. oy.

i always ask meself, What Would Billy Bragg Do?

but in this case, i'm not sure.

i loved being in England when we were there recently, and given the crap economy where we are, we've been talking about trying to land some work over yon for a bit and work on the pound. but then we give up the family for the custard creams, which while often a far more appealing trade might eventually have drawbacks. at least for my thighs.

it is so hard to figure out where to be, Joy. i finally realized a few years ago that i've spent most of my adult life looking for "the place," bouncing from spot to spot. and not to be trite, but i've come to the conclusion that home is wherever you feel at peace in the given moment. home today may not be home tomorrow.

it sounds a little, though, like maybe you need to make home back home, for a bit...or at least give it a shot. i wish you luck in finding a sense of home in whatever decision you (and family) make.

Ele said...

whoops that wasn't supposed to be anonymous. Sorry.

Lindyloo said...

Hiya- big decision. Forget about your big ass fridge!! They do have them here now but you'd have to give up a bedroom in order to have a place to put it. I'm in Manchester and LOOOVE it. It's expensive, the customer service sucks, forget about getting a decent burger (not that I eat them much but when you CAN'T have one you suddenly really really want one. Ooh and if you're in any way addicted to coffee- fuggettaboutit! Having said all that you get used to the crappy customer service (ok I'm lying about that) and the beer is better here and you get LOADS of time off and proper holidays and when the sun shines everyone goes crazy and get naked and they burn to a crisp and then you can laugh at the crazy Brits- oh wait you're a crazy Brit who probably burns to a crisp and the first hint of sun so you might not find that too funny.

In all seriousness it's difficult to start over somewhere else- but you've been there and done that so you know that there are times of intense lonelyness but eventually connections are made and communities are made.

gingajoy said...

Amanda--thank you. I do cling on to that idea for dear life, seriously.

Marmite Breath--thank you for calling me ducky. It makes me feel all safe and warm.

Julie--do I feel enlightenment? Well-- think the whole thing span out in the way I thought it would now, which is to say: it's going to be tough, but it's time. Now. in a few months I could be rewriting this post with a different slant. I kind of hope not, but I also know life...

Mary--I'll take the flipping coin. It's about as foolproof as it gets for me right now.

Lawyer Mama--I think you made the right choice. It's now that you learn to reevaluate "family." (AND you can always change your mind.) All I know is that in your sit, I'd have done the same thing.

Amanda--(sniff) thank you! You made me feel kind of special.

flutter: yes.

Izzy--OH, GIRL, I HEAR YOU...

Jennifer--but I am TERRIBLY glamorous, nonetheless..

HBM--SHUDDUP (sniff...)

Ele--my darling dalring cousin, only family reader to read this blog, and who is "comment challenged" (not really). You, my lady, are one big fat mark in the PRO-move column...

Lindyloo. You never know, this time next year, my kid could be freaking your kid out by "not sharing..." (Manchester, among other places, beckons...)

EVERYONE ELSE, INCLUDING TERE--THANK YOU!

and how the fuck did i end up with word verification on my blog? I DIDN'T DO IT!

Alpha DogMa said...

Having just watched back to back episodes of Relocation Relocation, Location Location Location, Selling Houses, & House Doctor on BBC Canada, I'm rather taken with living in the UK.

"Oooh, look at this barn conversion, it is so light and airy."

"This semi-detached bungalow has south and north aspects. It is so light and airy."

"This mews house is recently done up to have a light and airy feel. Isn't it homely?" Took a bit for me to get that homely is a good thing in England.

But the reality of the transatlantic move would be overwhelming. Though, I would be keen to attend your garage sale.

Any chance of getting your parents to move to America?

virtualredhead said...

I am suffering from insomnia and am perhaps slightly hormonal, so I can not be held accountable for what I say.

Your house is to die for, but honestly? You'll find one that you adore, and wonder why you were ever worried about a silly little thing like a house. It'll have a phenom garden, b/c british gardens whip yankee gardens any day. But I get dibs on some of your furniture.

The fact that you might (likely?) will go makes me a little bit sick to my stomach, and I'm sure it makes a couple other neighbors downright panic-stricken. That is selfish, however, and not fair to say. I will remind you, tho, that you've often stated that distance makes the heart grow fonder when it comes to family relationships.

In the end, the things that are scary are ultimately the best choices. I hate to say it dammit, and it kills me to be supportive, b/c it means we might loose you. I chalk it up to the damn academic lifestyle, that demands upward and onward for the resume. Why can't you find some nice job in the private sector and stick? And Robbie has big plans to be your blondie's helper and protector when he hits PV. "I have a big job to to do," says he. I kid you not.

I will miss you dammit dammit dammit. But I will support you.

In the mean time, it seems insomnia breeds swearing potential, and I should call it a nighty-night.

Darn it Joy!

MsPrufrock said...

It's such a tricky, tricky thing being a trans-Atlantic family. When we leave the UK in a few years' time we're well aware that we probably won't be able to return if we wanted to. As you have mentioned, the cost of living is so much higher here that our dollars would buy a shed, or perhaps a small plot of land that is 10 ft x 10 ft.

Unfortunately it's one of those decisions that just has to be made, as the list of pros and cons will be fairly balanced.

Good luck arriving at that decision, whatever it may be!

Anonymous said...

I did not see the educational system in either the pro or the con section. Would be interested in your thoughts on that. Do you think your kids would be getting a better education in the UK?

(Key, my word for verification is: "zuckphe." Sounds like either some sort of German noun or a pretty good curse word in English, huh?)

Tere said...

Wow, not at all easy. We've been in a do-we-leave-Miami-or-stay debate for six years now. We're as clueless now as we were then.

I can only wish you luck. Pros and cons, though, is a good way to start!

Kelly said...

Shit, it was an anxiety-provoking decision just for us to decide to move 1/4 mile away from our current home. I can't imagine batting this back and forth.

And can I say, it's nice to have this view of Americans as friendly...

Redneck Mommy said...

Big decision Joy. Having never had to face such a decision I find myself oddly ill-equipped to offer any useful insight. (Strange, since that never seems to stop me in the past...)

I will say I will miss the idea of you being on the same continent as myself. And you have such a great community.

But being close to the family is a huge benefit...

See...this is why I don't give advice. Good luck. Just try to ignore my ramblings...

Kathie said...

Oh my god. Don't move to Germany. The main thing I miss about the UK is how friendly people are compared to here. Somebody needs to get past you in a supermarket? Expect to be shoved to one side and ignored, and I, always the polite little British girl, apologise for daring to have been in the way in the first place...

Oh, The Joys said...

I don't know how you will decide, but I do want to say that the photos in this post? Priceless.

Jill Urbane, The Mentor Mom said...

Wow, clerks in Lansing ask if they can help you?! I guess I'm living on the wrong side of the state. Customer service is on the decline here in Grand Rapids :(

Making a pros and cons list is always a great way start to making such a life changing decision. I'm sure all will work out in the end. Best of luck to you :)

Lia said...

mmmm, been living in London for 10 years and there are so many things I love. The parks. The food - yes really!. The museums and galleries. and I am constantly amazed at how child friendly it is. But (and I arrived here after 6 years in Cape Town) my biggest cons are - space... oh the space is an issue. Small houses. Small windows. Small narrow streets (lots of big 4X4's). And the closest beaches are almost always....... grey!