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LJ Idol Week 5 Re-post – Chasing the Dream

I’m still hanging on with LJ Idol. I took a “bye” week for week 4, so here is my week 5 submission. I’m actually pretty happy that I wound up staying in the competition because it looked like I was in the bottom of my “tribe”, but somehow I wound up 5th from the bottom. Last week’s LJ Idol topic was “Inconceivable”. Here’s what I came up with to post. This also could be titled my journey to the UK. While I class this as “non-fiction”, some of it isn’t quite true to the memories…but for the most part it is.

I flitted in and out of the long line of students waiting to get into Westminster Abbey, taking photos with my new 35mm camera loaded with black and white film. I felt black and white was going to make better photographs of the old buildings, and the man at the camera shop showed me how I could easily swap between colour and black and white film without ruining my photos. My best friend, Erin, was standing in line next to our friend Rob and both of them were laughing at me as I attempted to capture everything I could see with my camera. We were only in London for two days as part of our high school’s music department trip to Europe and I was a huge Anglophile*, so I was soaking it all in.

We finally entered the cathedral** and I was speechless. I joined arms with Rob and Erin and tugged them around armed with the paper guide to the Abbey. We lit a candle for my father, saw where King Henry VIII was buried, looked at King Edward’s Chair, and spotted the Battle of Britain memorial window. The beauty of the glass took my breath away. Standing in Poet’s Corner, looking at the memorials for Chaucer, Shakespeare, Lords Byron and Tennyson, The Brontë sisters, and Jane Austen sent shivers up my spine. I squeezed Erin’s hand and told her that someday I was going to live in England.

I was waiting to see my new academic advisor at Penn State midway through my first year of studies when I spotted the brochure for the study abroad program at Leeds. Dreams of attending the program filled my head as I spoke with my advisor. Unfortunately, attending the Leeds program would do nothing towards my major, but if I was willing to spend an extra semester at university there was no reason I couldn’t apply for the program when I reached my junior year. I swapped my major into International Business, thinking that might give me a leg up on getting to live in the UK. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my boyfriend, about my plans for living in England as it was my secret alone. Unfortunately, my GPA was not high enough to apply for the study abroad program. I was crushed, but still determined to figure out a way to England.

I met my friend John in 1999 while attending a service project for Circle K. He and I hit it off and we became close friends despite attending schools 8 hours apart. John was planning on going to Japan for a semester abroad the following year, and I told him about my dreams of living in England. I was afraid he would think I was silly, but instead, he encouraged me not to forget my dream.

I forgot about my dream. I worked at a local pre-school and after I was laid off, I took a job working as a bank teller. My England dream came back, and I started talking to John about it again. John suggested creating a special bank account for my England fund and to set myself a goal of when I intended to move. It was 2002, so I told John I would give myself 10 years. I made plans to work my way up in the banking world. I thought if I got high enough at my local bank, I could then apply to work for an international bank in New York and then eventually transfer to a branch in England or even find a job with an English bank. I started pushing a small amount of money into my England fund with each paycheque. Only $50 plus loose change, but I did the math and if I continued to save $50/month for 10 years, I would have plenty of money to fund a move. I started telling the people I worked with about my England dream. Most of them scoffed and told me it wasn’t going to happen, it was impossible and inconceivable, and I should just give up. Even boys I dated laughed at me. I was still determined.

Unfortunately, I was laid off two years into my banker’s job and I spent the next few years holding down part-time jobs. I moved back in with my mom, and I needed to empty my England fund to help pay bills. I was lower than low. I started making jewellery and selling it online through a website and on Etsy and at local craft fairs. 15% of what I made was being put straight back into my UK fund. The money was trickling in in small amounts, but I wasn’t giving up. I made high quality Swarovski bracelets and necklaces, so from each sale I was getting between $1-$5 going into my UK fund. My 10-year clock was ticking and I started researching other ways of moving, thinking perhaps attending graduate school in the UK might be an option, or even becoming an Au Pair. I also became desperate to visit the UK, as I hadn’t been since 1997. But I knew that once I got a glimpse of Old Blighty again, I wouldn’t want to leave.

I met Tim online in 2004 and shared my dreams with him. He was very encouraging and told me that once I had enough money together to finance a trip I could come and stay with him in his spare room for as long as I needed while I job hunted. If I landed a job near him, he was willing to let me room with him until I could afford my own place. I was floored as no one had offered me this kind of encouragement before other than my friends Erin and John. We met in person in 2005 in Seattle and I didn’t get to spend as much time with him as I would have liked, but it was enough to know that I would feel safe staying with him if I came to the UK. That Christmas, he sent me a copy of Bill Bryson’s “Notes from a Small Island” with the inscription “to tide you over until you are here”. At the time, I was dating someone who didn’t understand my dream, and who enjoyed quoting “inconceivable” from The Princess Bride at me whenever I brought it up.

Tim and I continued our friendship and I developed another idea for moving. I was going to try to get a job again at IKEA and then work my way to transferring to a UK store. I used my connections from my 1998 job at the Philadelphia store to get a job assisting with opening the Canton, MI store. Unfortunately I broke my foot that summer and wound up needing to leave my job and moved back in with my mother in PA. My England account stood at around $200, not even enough for half of a plane ticket. I was depressed. If I wanted to meet my goal, I was running out of time. I began to think that a move to the UK just wasn’t in the cards for me.

In 2008 I finally decided I was just going to come to the UK. I would sell my car and use the proceeds for a plane ticket, and stay in Tim’s spare room for as long as I could. I hoped that I might be able to do some job hunting while I was visiting. In mid-2008, Tim and I confessed our feelings for each other and began dating. We decided that I would use my upcoming trip to determine if I really wanted to live in the UK. I would stay for a few months and in addition to seeing the sights I would experience doing things that people who live there do – things like grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, etc.

I fell in love.

We extended my visit to the alloted 6 months on my visitor visa, and I returned to the US, determined to make the permanent move. The obvious solution would be marriage, but I didn’t want Tim to marry me just so I could move to the UK and I really wanted to get to the UK on my own merits. In the end, I did marry Tim, but we waited until we were both ready for it and both wanted it.

I entered the UK on my two-year spousal visa in January 2010. This December, I become eligible for permanent residency. And then, I have a date with Westminster Abbey.

Nothing is inconceivable, you just have to persevere.

*An Anglophile is someone who is fond of all things British. At the age of 17, this meant I watched Monty Python, Mr Bean, AbFab, and Are You Being Served on PBS.
**Technically speaking, Westminster is not a Cathedral, but I thought it was when I was 17.

This coming week’s topic is “food memory”…I have no idea if I even have any food memories….

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1 comment

1 Comment so far

  1. stephanie November 30th, 2011 1:42

    Awww I love this. Gives me hope that one day I will get the chance to live in England with prince charming.

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