Sixteen months ago, I embarked on the most incredible and terrifying journey of my life. Moving back to the country of my birth after twelve years of living in the United States. With just the clothes on my back and a few in a box, I came here with nothing, hoping to discover a new life complete with new and exciting experiences. This voyage has surpassed all of my expectations and the places I’ve seen, the people I’ve met, and the adventures I’ve had along the way have shaped the person I’m becoming. But my life is missing a few key ingredients including: A fulfilling occupation that I enjoy and can be proud of. So it’s with mixed emotions and a little trepidation, that I leave the IT field and return to America to start the next chapter of my life. Here’s how I got here, Why I’m leaving, and Where I’m going next…
Since moving to the States at the age of twelve, I had always considered it my home. I had no say in the matter at the time but Mum was marrying a charming Yank and we were being uprooted several thousand miles away to a foreign land. I never felt any pangs of remorse for leaving England. I’d never been to America before but it was a new place with new challenges and I was excited at the prospect of immersing myself into a new culture. I’ll save the tales of the following twelve years for my personal memoirs but for brevity’s sake, let’s skip forward ten years to my cousin’s wedding that began my quest for returning to Blighty.
As time away from work in America is hard to come by, I had not returned to the UK in over five years since I began working fulltime in Information Technology. After saving up my annual leave for the preceding two years, I finally had enough accrued to travel home for two weeks. Following a long flight, several trains, and an hour’s car journey, I was presented with this:
This simple view had such a profound impact on me. After being surrounded by desert and cacti, the green pastures, rolling hills, and blue ocean were overwhelming. It was in this moment that a little voice, far within the depths of grey matter, began nagging me that this was where I belonged. Two weeks passed of family, friends, and a slight cultural overload and the small voice had grown to a cacophony; this is where I needed to be! Every fibre of my being was telling me that the “good life” was here. So I returned to the States invigorated and impassioned that I would do everything in my power to get back as quickly as possible. It took me eighteen months.
I had vague ideas and wondrous imaginings of what life in England would be like after being detached from this society for so long. A two week trip in no way can prepare you for permanent domicile so I spent every spare waking moment researching everything I could about what to expect. It only reinforced what I had already known however, I’m sure I overlooked several negative factors purely on the basis of expectant bias. Somewhat unavoidable when your mind is set on something and you subconsciously block out the naysayers and cynics. This is what I wanted to do and nothing anyone could say or do would persuade me otherwise.
The next step was deciding where, within this relatively small island nation, I would live. As a child, my roots were in the south; Newbury, Oxford, and Exeter. Most of my family can still be found dotted around, within a reasonably short radius of all of these places but I wasn’t set on any of them. I wanted the sprawling metropolis of London without the associated costs and commutes that come with living in that bustling cosmopolitan. As luck would have it, the girl I love was offered an internship in Manchester six months prior to my departure from the States and it was a tangible direction we could both aim for. And that’s how it came to pass. In late October of 2012, we said goodbye to our friends and family stateside and set off for the literal greener pastures. I was home again.
After a short stint in Exeter with my father, I arrived in Manchester in early November. We were immediately infatuated with the city. Being bathed in the neo-gothic Victorian architecture was a stark contrast to the post modernist mundanity of the western United States. The city possesses an infectious ethereal energy that courses through the narrow streets like an unending pulse. Everywhere we went was a new and invigorating experience. It felt like a never-ending vacation. I’ve found that discovering a new country is the closest to recreating the natural wonderment of childhood. Everything is new and different and ignites an indefinable sensation within. It’s one of the many reasons that I enjoy travelling so much. I was hooked and it seemed everything I had spent so long planning was coming to fruition.
A few months flew by as I was adjusting and adapting to my new surroundings and my savings were slowly being depleted. I had to find a way to supplement this new lifestyle I had discovered so I began looking for work in late January of 2013. I planned to return to the profession I had somewhat fallen into back in America. Receiving my first computer at the age of four, I had a long-standing relationship with technology and I was somewhat proficient with its predictive failings. A frustrating month passed but after several CV revisions, I was called by a recruiter for an IT support position that was based in the city centre. Arriving with no idea what to expect, I was greeted by a room of 24 other candidates, all vying for an opportunity with this exciting employer. What followed was an intense eight-hour marathon of assessments ranging from imaginary survival situations to technical aptitude with a little personality test thrown in as well. The field of prospective employees was slowly whittled down throughout the day. For reasons unclear to myself, the numbers were first cut to sixteen, then ten, and then five. Each exodus was followed by my internal pervasive question “Why am I still here?” Finally, we were informed that the five of us were going to be called in for a secondary interview with the Managing Director within the following few days. My turn came on the ensuing Friday and I was offered a job on the spot. It was a wonderful sense of self-validation. This company had seen something in me that I don’t think I had seen in myself. Out of those original 24, only one other received an offer of employment. I was shocked and delighted, ecstatic to face the new challenges that arise from meshing with an already advancing machine made up by the work place. I needed to exert maximum effort to find my place within it. Thankfully, this didn’t prove too challenging. I worked with some incredible people that welcomed me into the fold. All of them talented and intelligent with a healthy dose of personality for good measure. Over the subsequent fourteen months, I became close with many of them and it felt more like I was spending eight hours of the day with an extended family rather than colleagues. The only way I can fathom that this environment came to exist was through the extensive selection process that weeds out those that clash with the existing infrastructure; forming an organisation that coalesces into an incredible environment. Unfortunately, the job itself was less than rewarding both financially and emotionally. Before I arrived in the UK, I had discovered through my copious research that compensation levels were not quite on par with those found in the States. Still, I hadn’t been prepared for a 25% pay cut in a country where the cost of living is approximately 40% higher. Not to mention, I was making less than my very first IT job when I was just eighteen years old. While I try not to define my life by any monetary figure, I certainly enjoy and value what it can provide for me; more in experiences rather than tangible “things”. Adjusting to a more restrictive lifestyle than I had been accustomed to was a steep learning curve. Money aside, there’s something rather soul destroying about sitting at a desk all day answering phone calls and support tickets from generally perturbed clientele because their website is broken or they’re not receiving their email. I learnt a lot in the first few months but after a while, the monotony of the situation became apparent. Day in and day out, it was the same thing over and over again and I gradually became disillusioned with the whole process. The voluntary extended hours I put in to resolve a given situation went unrecognised and unrewarded. There was no motivation to go above and beyond what was expected but I did it anyway for my own attempt at personal satisfaction. I’ve given up more of my own time than I care to mention, thinking I was doing the right thing to assist the paying customer and the company while slowly sapping the enthusiasm out of my veins. This was all done in the hopes it would lead to something better. “If I do this, maybe something great will come of it.” But it never did. Each day merged with the next and it became harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning. I’m in no way apposed to working hard and long hours if the end result leaves you feeling accomplished and fulfilled. I felt neither. I was exhausted and despondent and while I consider myself a generally selfless person, there’s only so much one can withstand. I’m certainly not blameless for the situation I found myself in. I never really asked for more or complained about my predicament. I believed that keeping my head down and fitting in with the pack would gradually move me in the right direction. “Don’t ruffle any feathers and keep your head down.” Well that worked out well… All of this has led me to where I am now: Searching for a new direction in life and to discover something better and more rewarding personally. Something I can look forward to each and every day. Our lives are just a fleeting moment on this planet and mine was meant for something more. But why go back to America? Why leave the country and people I love that I strived so hard for in the first place?
The answer is simple really. Family. While I’m fortunate to have such a large and wonderful extended family spattered across the south of England, my mother and step father are by far the most influential people in my life. Both incredibly successful in their respective fields, I’ll need to absorb as much guidance and determinism as they’re willing to radiate. I know I can rely on them to pick me up when I fail and whether they know it or not, they will be instrumental in getting me where I want to go. No pressure. If they were all living here in the UK, I don’t think there’s any doubt in my mind that I would not be returning to the States. I love it here. I still get twinges of that initial perception I felt when first moving to England over a year ago. That inexpressible feeling of “this is where I belong.” But I have grander goals for myself that currently this nation can’t provide. There are so many things I’ll miss, but mostly the people I’ve met along the way. This certainly isn’t a good-bye, but more of a clichéd “I’ll see you later.” I hope to return to England in the not-too-distant future with a better understanding of myself and what I want to do. Speaking of, what the hell do I want to do?
I honestly have no idea.
Literally not a clue.
This terrified me at first. I was giving up a profession I’d been apart of and semi-successful at for the last 8 years for what? Well I don’t know yet. And that’s ok. I’ve accepted this as part of the passage to better things. Whatever it is I find myself pursuing, it will be worth getting up for each day and working long nights to complete. It will be something I can be proud of. It will mean something to me!
To quote myself; “We’ll see what happens.”