Going back to the UK hasn’t been easy for me in the past. Each visit has been a tough reminder that the country had moved on without me. I found myself homesick for a time and place that no longer existed. So I would return to the US a little heartbroken and depressed. It’s the reason I hadn’t been home in over nine years. So it was with a large slice of trepidation that I went back this month.
I had to return to take care of some legal matters that I’d been putting off for a number of years, but I decided to make the most of the visit by taking in a Watford game now that they’re in the premier league and attending the London Book Fair. It was also a chance to catch up with friends and meet up with my little sister for a joint birthday catch-up. Despite a three year age gap, our birthdays are only days apart. There was also room to do a little sightseeing.
So how was England?
Some things hadn’t changed. Weather was as changeable as ever, managing to shift from sunny to rain and back again in a matter of hours. There’s nothing like going out for the day with sunglasses and an umbrella–and needing both. Going to a footie game was just the same when I went as a kid. Thousands of people walking to the stadium, picking up a program book from a street vender and grabbing a bag of chips from a chippie on the way. Ticket prices might change but the vibe won’t. Good to see the Tube hasn’t changed and London in general, despite a ton of redevelopment. Friends were the same and I didn’t realize how much I missed them until I had to say goodbye again. The London Book Fair remains a baffling and overwhelming experience. And my God does the country feel overpopulated in comparison to the USA!
A lot had changed too. My hometown had changed massively. There’d been a ton of redevelopment. Road systems changed. My neighborhood is virtually unrecognizable. Familiar landmarks repurposed or replaced altogether. The greatest change was my mark on my hometown. Both my colleges are gone. Five places I worked no longer exist. The roundabout/underpass at the center of Slough filled in and turned into a complex crossroads. It was as if my origin story was being erased. I felt like Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, where everything that defined me was gone. If Cap needs to have a drink with someone who understands, I’m available.
The biggest change of all was me. After eighteen years in the US, I’ve let go. I’ll always be English, but I have lost my connection to my homeland. America is my home now. The England of my upbringing doesn’t exist, other than in my head. I’ll miss things and people and there’ll be things I’ll always identify with, but I have no need to be there. For the first time, my trip was a pleasant one–one without regret or sadness–but I have no reason to return. I have no idea if or when I’ll go back. And you know what? That’s okay. England has moved on…and so have I.