Since my contract with my University was ending in May and since JP was not happy with his (soul-sucking) job, we decided that now was as good a time as any to bugger off from the world of suburbia. When I applied for new jobs last fall, I cast a wide net.
I applied, as I do every year or so, to two PhD programs, wanting to keep the job I currently have/do but knowing that the odds of continuing in it without a PhD were slim to none.
Out of 14 applications, 2 teaching jobs, 1 writing center admin gig, 1 waitlist PhD acceptance, and 1 full PhD acceptance, which were in Georgia, California, Georgia, London, and Scotland, respectively. I presented at a conference in southern California in January and managed an interview while there; I was ready to move back to that coast. Both the Atlanta and southern California areas held great promise for us; lots of sunshine, better job markets (yes even in CA!), we have friends already in both areas, and both are metropolitan in a way that was ultimately appealing; six years in suburbia for us and it was definitely time to go.
My writing took on a different tone; arguments with my editor/advisor, which were usually fun, took on an aggressive edge that we were both struggling (read: barely managing) to overlook. I dove into more research and left both blog and book abandoned as frustrations took a firm hold. I skipped the usual staycation or solo vacation opportunities and instead volunteered to babysit my nieces in Milwaukee for a week for Spring Break, flying low and slow until the big decision was made; I had until April 5 to give the top job my answer.
Could I be a Falcons fan?
News of my acceptance into the PhD program arrives online.
We had already agreed that moving overseas would trump the other offers. But I had been “waitlisted” in London, as my thesis would not have an appropriate supervisor (they limit them to 6 per supervisor in the UK) until Jan 2017. So I ask JP, “Are we going to do this?” He knows that while I love my job, the last two years have been difficult, knowing that I was going to lose it due to the power of university politics out of my control. He knows I long to return to a life of writing. He has no great desire to stay in Greensboro and we both understand that without us both working, we’ll lose our house anyway. He becomes the Greatest Hubby Ever when he replies:
“Fuck yeah. We’ll sell everything and just go.”
And enter the “I don’t know” t-shirt.
Over the last 4 months, I’ve never said “I don’t know” – and genuinely meant it- so much in my life.
We were not uncertain of our plans, mind, simply uncertain as to the peripheral details, often very important details. For instance, when asked When do you leave? (I don’t know. We’re waiting on visas to be processed.) What will you do if the house doesn’t sell? (I don’t know.) What if it does? (I don’t know.) What about the pups? (I don’t know.) What will JP do there? (I don’t know. Find work.) What does he want to do? (I don’t know. We’ll figure it out when we get there.)
What kinds of classes will you take? (I don’t know. I’ll figure it out when I get there.) Will you store your stuff? (I don’t know.) Will you pack your clubs? (I don’t know.) Will you come back? (I don’t know.)
I would joke about needing a t-shirt with big letters across the sisters: I DON’T KNOW, so I could simply point to it. (Hubby pointed out that people don’t really need more excuses to look at the sisters, though, and he’s probably right.)
BELOW are most of the answers. Officially.
We share the news with only a few people, testing the waters are we make our schemes.
Fosters for the dogs Otter & Abby have been offered. We’re ecstatic. There is lots of champagne.
Then, the foster situation for Otter & Abby falls apart and we are devastated. We panic about the possibilities; we drink bourbon and breathe. We have time to strategize. We breathe some more. We decide that Otter will come with us. We have another offer to foster Abby; we will figure this out. But for one night – just one – we consider moving to Georgia rather than Glasgow.
We tell the world-at-large, which involves calling people, telling our employers, and some creative use of social media. Most everyone is excited and hysterical with their love and support, mixed with jealousy and surprise, and a little sadness that we are moving. We feel loved and encouraged. But a few standouts are angry, judgmental, even obnoxious about our life choices, which is disheartening. And stressful. JP suggests that we ignore these people altogether; I adopt this strategy immediately.
Our house goes on the market and we’re excited, hopeful, a bit overwhelmed. Every open house or showing results in a small list of things that need to be repaired or addressed. Nothing overwhelming or exorbitant, but a constant pattern of small repairs and cleaning envelopes us. Hurricane is a Rockstar, even sewing additional curtains for the mudroom. I have weird dreams of waves of Clorox and perfect tile floors.
The non-supportive element persist in being angry and selfish about our decision. Some people just simply find a way to make everything about themselves. We agree to simply ignore them; if we are not living our lives as they would have us, then this is THEIR problem, not ours. Fuck ‘em.
Next, I post flyers on Facebook and successfully adopt out all three of our cats. Bittersweet but we couldn’t ask for better for them. We love them but they are perfectly placed.
Elvis lives in luxury in Wilmington with another cat (Sam) and a 6 years old boy who loved him instantly.
Loretta and Lyle were adopted together by a young couple in Winston-Salem.
My final semester at Elon has ended, and the True Limbo has begun. I have given my last exams, turned in the last grades, emptied my office, turned in the keys. I slip away with no ceremony; my heart is light and I feel remarkably calm. I drive the long way home, with the top down, and I try to imagine where I will be this time, next year.
At an intersection, a man in a green AC repair van says out window to me, ”You look like a woman on vacation.” I tell him that my vacation in fact, starts today. He laughs and says, “Can I come with you?” Thankfully, the light turns green and I can simply smile in reply before the moment becomes creepy.
We are crushed with the news that Otter can’t come with us, as he part American Pittie, a banned breed in the UK. Many tears ensue
We travel to Glasgow to look for a place to live. (1) It is bright and sunny and people apologize for the “crazy weather” as they laugh and move outside to drink another dram. We adore it. We make 6 appointments with 4 agents and we take the first flat we view. We pay our landlord, HAMISH, our deposit and then drink our way through the remainder of our week. We have officially hedged all bets and now we must let the table ride.
Upon our return, we get rid of JP’s car.
The systematic sorting of our lives becomes my full time job. I literally lay a hand on every item in my life and decide to 1) store it 2) ship it 3) sell it or 4) donate it. Some days this applies to Hubby, too. Storage is expensive (4 years minimum) and shipping is extortionate ($150 for a 30 lb. box) the Estate Sale date is chosen (we must do this even if house doesn’t sell) and Goodwill is a weekly destination.
JP’s employers, at first supportive, decide instead to screw him. They don’t have a reputation for treating their employees well, so why should we expect them to start now? So without their assistance, he now has to pursue a different (much more expensive) type of visa in order to move with me at summer’s end. Super stress.
Along with the stress, though, comes the revelry. We begin spending every free moment with friends and family who love and support us; most every night and each weekend full of spending quality time counting our blessings. To remember these days is still too overwhelming to describe.
4 JULY holiday.
Long weekend at the beach. It’s wonderful to relax. We straighten our backs and brace ourselves for July.
We get a Solid Offer on the house. We accept. Closing in 21 days. Playing the odds has paid off in round one and doubters can suck it. Drinking of champagne re-commences.
Our good fortune increases. A home is found for Abby & Otter and they can stay together. The meet and greet/play date was a complete success and we are thrilled. They are our mountain neighbors and we know and love them. We couldn’t imagine a better home for our pups.
We sell my car. The momentum of our new lives cannot be stopped now.
The triage of all we own steps into high gear. I am a bit insane. No money for storage means creative dispersal of the most valuable parts of our lives, which proves much more entertaining that you can imagine. There is unconfirmed day drinking.
The items for the Estate Sale are individually tagged and lying on every surface in the house. Friends come to pre-sale shop, which involves drinking the last case of Malbec. We have also managed to (mostly) eat the freezer empty, resulting in some very creative meals, most memorably a night with venison medallions and pan-fried pork dumplings, steamed broccoli, and corn on the cob. Chocolate-covered bananas for dessert.
24 July Otter & Abby are officially adopted, driven to their new home in the Smoky Mountains
25 July JP’s last day of work
26 July Estate Sale (2)
27 July Cleaned out house
28 July Closed on house, drove to the Outer Banks.
AUGUST: HOMELESS, PART I
We take a fun road trip (strange to have Hubby and not Otter as co-pilot) to Milwaukee (Shannon’s cellar continues its half-life as storage facility) and spend quality summer break time with my favorite girls in the world. We eat and drink and even swim our way through America’s Dairyland.
The next 4 weeks follow this pattern: 4-5 days at BEACH, 2-3 in GBORO
We have amazing tans.
We have farewell gatherings, dinners with friends; there is a lot of pool and beach chillaxing and boating and fishing and golf and cigars and bourbon. We live like retirees and in between eating and drinking ourselves out of our clothes, we file visa and entry paperwork with the UK consulate, pay rent on our flat, get our Homeland Security biometrics completed, and agree to let our joy trump our visa anxieties. The weeks RACE by.
SEPTEMBER: HOMELESS PART II
Labor Day Weekend is relaxing and fun. We are, of course, with our besties at the beach.
We are officially restless. The last of the packing and what to ship becomes a focus, as we feel we can’t ignore it any longer. We buy luggage. We buy new shoes. We are feeling the weight of limbo and ready to get on with it.
15 SEPT JP’s visa is finally approved.
16 SEPT We book flights and spread the word.
21 SEPT We sell JP’s truck.
19-22 SEPT Final dinners, hugs, laughs, and cocktails ensue.
23 SEPT We board a plane for Philly. Then on to Scotland.
A friend of ours who is an airline attendant tells her friend working our flight to treat us well. She does. We have a cozy row, a real (full sized) bottle of wine, premium bourbon, a good meal, and we arrive in Glasgow at 7 am 24 SEPT.
All of our luggage arrives together and is not so much as scratched.
We sail through customs in about 10 minutes.
Our hired car awaits us in Car Park 2.
Hamish meets us at the flat at 8 with keys, linens, and a quick walk through.
8:30. He’s gone. We’re alone in the flat.
Blue sky windows.
Our new chapter begins.
Where’s my t-shirt?
(1) More on this later. The week we became Scots.
(2) Much more fun than it should have been. More on this later too.