Looking back on the last 365 days of living abroad
04.06.2009 - 04.06.2009 14 °C
One year ago, at some time just after nine in the morning British Summer Time, an immigration officer at Heathrow airport brought his stamp down upon my UK Entry Clearance. He passed me back my passport and said, “Welcome to the United Kingdom.”
I walked out of Heathrow airport with an idea of where I wanted to get to, a blueprint for my new life in London. I also had an idea of how that was going to happen, a plan for the “when” and “what” and “how” I was going to get to that new life. A lot has happened in this past year, and not much of it has gone to that plan I had in my head. I’ve lived in 3 different houses, spent 5 weeks working “abroad” in Phoenix, spent 8 months job hunting, finally found full time employment, and got to know London.
Finding a job is probably the biggest accomplishment of the last year. When I arrived here in the UK, North America was just entering a recession but the economy still looked pretty good here in the UK. Within just a few months time however, Lehman Brothers was bust, the phrase “credit crunch” had entered the nation’s vocabulary, and the phrase “hiring freeze” became one of the most frequent phrases I heard from potential employers. Finding a job in a sputtering economy is an accomplishment I take some pride in.
More than that, however, finding a job provides a stability and permanence to my move abroad. Prior to having a job, I never really felt like I was “living” in England. I always felt a little more like a tourist, albeit an extended tourist who spent the majority of his time on Monster.com looking for work. This feeling of impermanence led to a few of my more colourful and wild swings of mood, including the night I spent sitting at home watching Wilson from Cast Away floating on the ocean and my foul-mood on visiting Lullingstone Villa.
Now that I am employed, I feel a lot more like this is home and I am actually living here. I feel like a productive member of English society, like I am giving something to my newly adopted country, and of course getting something deeper than just a tourist’s experience in return.
After failing to visit Lullingstone Villa, I wandered around and eventually my mood improved, mostly because of a change of outlook. I wrote about how that day reminded me that moving here was a fresh start, a “greenfield development.” While I cited my knowledge of the term from IT development, the term greenfield comes from the construction industry originally, to indicate a development on a fresh plot of land never built on before.
To stretch that greenfield metaphor a little more, I now feel like I am past the planning stage. I had a blueprint in my head walking out of Heathrow, one I have had to revise them a few more times than I would have liked, but now those plans feel a lot more complete. I’ve started to implement that blueprint, slower than I might have hoped, but things are starting to progress now. I’m no longer looking out over a greenfield. We’ve started building, and I’m looking a foundation taking shape.
My blueprint is now coming to life.