“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” -Miriam Adeney
I recently went home to Chicago for the holidays. It was as magical as it always is, and I returned to London in the first week of January feeling utterly full both in heart and in waistline. Leaving the people and the city I love so much never gets any easier with each visit home, but it has become drastically different. The first two years or so after moving to London, I’m less than proud to say every time I came back to London from Chicago I physically hated London. I hated the Tube, I hated the people, I hated the way the coffee tasted and how there was no one to look after me when I was sick. I would spend weeks despising this city and country and vowing to move back to the United States as soon as I had the chance.
After a few weeks of getting back into my routine and spending time with my U.K. friends, I’d inevitably get over it. I’d realise that moving home would mean no more going to the pub or getting the train to Paris or drinking Pimms from a can in the sun. Summer would come and I would never feel homesick unless I FaceTimed my parents and they were having a barbecue with my grandparents or going to a baseball game. This cycle went on relatively endlessly, and before I knew it I was celebrating three years in London and halfway to being a British citizen. This year, however, was different.
Like most other things in my last, I blame most of this on boys, or in this case, one boy. Now that Harry and I live together, for as much as it destroys my ‘hopelessly jaded’ brand, I am ridiculously happy. Returning to reality this January wasn’t difficult because I happen to really like my reality. I have a wonderful flat with a garden, a boyfriend who will binge You on Netflix with me and run out to the store when we’re out of bananas, and a job that isn’t always a dream, but affords me the ability to be here, living the rest of this wonderful life. So yes, for the first time, coming back to London was easy. It was leaving home that is still, and will always be, so goddamn excruciating.
I love my life in Chicago. I love harsh winters and brutal summers and pizza and the White Sox and most importantly I love the friends and family without which Chicago would just be a beer soaked, sports crazed shell of a home. And don’t get me wrong, I know exactly how fortunate I am that my biggest burden is being so in love with two different places and the people in them at once. I will never stop being grateful for that, but it is agony. For every memory that I am making in Europe, for every moment spent watching the Queen go by in a carriage at Royal Ascot or visiting pubs older than my entire country in Kent, I am missing my little sister’s first day of middle school or my cousin’s graduation party. How am I supposed to enjoy what I have here when for every memorable experience I have, there are five that I am missing out on at home? It’s a predicament that can never be solved, but it is also one that will never stop aching no matter how happy I am. It is just as much a blessing as it is a heartbreaking curse.
The only prescription I’ve managed to give myself to deal with this cross to bear is cripplingly cliche: living in the moment. I am in London now, making memories every day that most people wouldn’t dream of making in their lifetime. Sometimes, I’m even lucky enough to make those memories with my family when they are able to visit me. I am so lucky to be living this life, and it would be a poor expression of gratitude for me to spend the precious moments here lamenting whether I should be somewhere else. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, and I wouldn’t be here without the love and support of everyone back at home.
At my dad’s 50th birthday dinner, which happened to be in London with several of my friends, we all went around the table and said what we thought our idea of heaven was. My best friend Elizabeth, who is also an American ex-pat, said her idea of heaven would be all of the people she loves living on the same street. This was quite possibly one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard because it completely captured my own sentiment. I don’t know if I believe in heaven and even if it does exist I’m skeptical I’d get an invite, but if it does exist I hope that I love on a street block with every person I hold dear to me, with a pub on one side of the street and a Connie’s Pizza on the other.