An ongoing meme for 2018 was “the last week has been the longest year of my life.” This is frequently in response to some heinous fuckery in American politics, but Brexit is running a close second. On a personal level, the last year has not been the longest year of my life, but it has been the most momentous. I’ve taken on a new role at Ye Olde Day Jobbe and moved from southwest Missouri to London, UK.
The first part of the year was much like the previous ten years. As a family we made a few trips to Kansas City, spent most holidays with family, read some books, played soccer, played board and video games, and traveled hither and yon for work. Around March the opportunity to move to England arose, and things went into overdrive. We listed and sold our house, sold our cars, and readied ourselves for the big move. I made a trip to England in May to investigate neighborhoods, finally settling on southwest London as my target area due to a combination of proximity to work (about an hour away), schools (good to very good), and cost (expensive, but not zone 1 or 2 expensive).
The big move happened in July. By American standards we didn’t bring much with us. A few suitcases each, a few boxes shipped separately, and a whole lot of hard drive space for photos.
Before we left the States, the girls asked if we were going to do more stuff in England than we’ve done in the US. It really drove home how much we had taken being in the US for granted. The girls had traveled around Missouri, made a few trips to Florida and the Gulf Coast, but seen little else. Travel in the US means either driving for hours (or days) to get somewhere or spending a fortune to fly. With so much to see and do in London plus the ease of affordable travel to Europe via air and train, I assured the girls we would do more in the UK.
London itself has plenty to see and do. It’s one of the top tourist destinations in the world, and for good reason. We have scratched the surface while we’ve been here, and that’s been with trips into the city multiple times a month.
In addition to London, the girls went to Dublin for a weekend (when I was in the States for Viable Paradise), and we have just returned from a four day weekend in Paris.
Rather than write out a list of highlights, I’m going to throw in some photos with captions. Y’all are here for the pictures, anyway.
Brent and Carissa across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower.
Friends and coworkers have asked what’s different. The answer: nearly everything. Springfield and London have about as much in common as Springfield and the moon. The differences, though, are more city vs rural than American vs British. We used to have a yard, and now we have a “garden” with no grass. Going somewhere used to mean getting in the car; now it means catching the bus or the train. Distances are no longer measured in miles (or kilometers), but in minutes and hours. The food is good in both cities, but there’s so much more variety in London.
And yet… London and Springfield aren’t so very different. People are people everywhere. Regardless of language or religion or skin color, people are opinionated, caring, flawed, indifferent, busy, generous, self-centered.
There is a very real core of American exceptionalism that thrives in the Midwestern United States. This belief that our innate Americanness makes us special. That our religion or our culture are superior. Folks, those things are not only untrue, but the very belief isn’t even exceptional. It’s delusional. The Brexiteers over here are preaching the same toxic narrative as the nationalists in the US. The nationalists in France, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Sweden, etc are doing the same thing.
America, as a country, has done amazing things. Exceptional things. It has spawned great thinkers, great artists, great leaders. It has also participated in its share of atrocities and crimes. None of which is to say that an individual American is special because they were born in America. Are you special because your team won the Super Bowl or the World Series?
SPOILER ALERT: You’re not. You’re special or not because of the things you have done and the way you treat people. And if 2018 taught us nothing else, it’s that treating people poorly overrides any celebrity or accomplishments a person can have. Just ask Bill Cosby.
Look, we’re all on this planet together. We’ve got one little blue pebble floating amongst an enormous, uncaring cosmos. The ice caps are melting and Americans are talking about building walls. How about instead we all try to be a little nicer to each other? My goal for 2019–and I know I’m setting a high bar here–is: don’t be so much of a dick. I hope you’ll join me.