On Transatlanticism

From the end of June into early July, Lawrence and Q came to stay with me in Washington, D.C. For two blissful weeks, we drank gorgeous Virginia wines, traipsed around Washington’s best galleries, and immersed ourselves in feminist diatribes. For only a blink, Boshemia was together again, in our own favorite company, happy as ever.

One night when I went out for the wine, and I came back to Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene being performed to me, from my own balcony. I stood out in the street, bottles in hand, staring up four stories of brick, in wonder at the lines that Lawrence and Q sang out to me below.

This is who we are together.

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If it were truly possible to be in two places at once, surely I may have mastered it by now. It’s no secret that I lead two lives—one in the United States and the other in the United Kingdom. Transatlanticism is exhausting. The amount of energy and resources I have used in maintaining my life here and abroad, with weeks/months/years of travel, conflicting time zones, constant use of WhatsApp, Skype, and every other means of social media…it’s hard to believe. Yet I continue. It is quite literally a labor of love.

I have spent a year and some months living outside of America. In that time I have learned what many expats come to know: there is an entire world out there, waiting for you to join it.

*

To be firmly rooted in two soils, or to be situated between both, belonging fully to neither? Duality, or limbo? This is what I have felt for the past three years of my early twenties. It is frustrating to me to not be in both American and England at once, living fully in either experience.

*

[It seems it is only when we die, when we become a part of everything, dispersing across time and the universe, that we can know this fullness of experience. Until then, we steal a little of everything. We settle with the present. For being scattered.]

*

America exists as both an ideal and my reality; the United Kingdom, some separate reality. When I saw  Q and  Lawrence at last again, removed from the context I knew,  it disrupted my naive worldview that we somehow occupy isolated geographies. 

They were here, and then they weren’t. 

*

A core metaphor of my life, a theme from which the rest of my personal narrative hinges upon, is restlessness. It is what propels me, what drives me to seek better opportunities no matter my current circumstance. It is what drove me from my small Appalachian town after high school to seek life abroad, what made me decide to apply to some unknown place on the map, Plymouth, UK—

[only a name them, at one time meaningless to me, and now so full]

— in the first place. 

Moving overseas remains to be the greatest and biggest thing I have ever done for myself.

*

I exist at once in two parallel universes, so to speak. While my present continues in the US, my life in England instead exists in suspended animation. Time moving slowly, strangely, sometimes hardly passing at all. When I return it feels this way, at least.

In Scotland and England, I am still an actor, last seen at an Edinburgh debut, reeling from my very first four-star review. There I live(d) with a dozen other actors, in a towering Victorian home that seemed situated above a cave, at the outskirts of wide and green meadow. I hung my laundry on a line in the vaulted kitchen.

In America, I am working creatively still, in film production and museum research— a most interesting combination—and am keeping traditional business hours, about 45 hours a week. I am happy, carving out a living in the arts, but there is always something missing.

Further: I have a tumble drier here, and it feels like a waste. 

*

                                                                         Interior: England.

The pale morning light shines weakly through the boxy window at the foot of my bed. It is slightly ajar from the bottom, pushed up and out to let in the soft breeze that blows in from the sea. My sheets are lightly crisp in that way that only happens from hanging them on the stair railing to dry. Seagulls are crying overhead, dumbly. Their sounds soothe me.

In my house hangs a slight dampness in the air: it is raining again. My feet touch stiff, outdated, carpeted floor. I pad to the kitchen to turn on the kettle.

*

Interior: Reston.

In the suburbs of Washington, D.C, my neighborhood wakes up to the sounds of continued construction. The sound envelopes us. But the forest around my apartment is glowingly green. I feel safe here, in this old brick building. I look outside my window, down the four flights of stairs below, and there is a courtyard, a labyrinth of connecting courtyards with stone steps creating winding paths between each. I chose this spot because it reminded me of old Europe.

Ancient chestnut trees rise above us, shake their leaves above the building, defiantly. Construction cranes hang high over the expanding metropolis. It seems I am situated in the last grove of trees between DC’s westerly arm and what remains of Virginia countryside.

On my metro ride to work I pass a blur of grey, low concrete. Architecture spreads low and wide, as in testament to the urban sprawl. Everything exists solely on the side of the highway– either or right or left, only. One continuous grey strip to work. The metro platform towers stories above the office buildings, as though floating. I descend the staircase to the city’s edge.

                                                                                       *

America is rife with stunning landscape, shocking ideas, and such an absurd variety of life—this is the America I love, yes. The America I believe in is largely an abstraction, an idea that I struggle to see actualized.

[At least, my love for my home country is problematic, largely because I expressly refuse to accept these inhuman standards of American life—police brutality, daily unjustified shootings of civilians, countless mass shootings, the nauseating decadence and placidity of American suburbia, the laughable cruel circus of our current presidential race, our disgrace of public transportation, our refusal to embrace multiculturalism.]

And yet I still hope it to be better. And worse still, I know it to be better, elsewhere.

I can say this because I have come back. Because I have seen my true home and left it. I have lived among both geographies with unclouded vision and no rose colored lenses.

*

I became an opportunist because I was raised in America, the land of green promises and grandiose hopes for better living.  I am not ungrateful for what I have learned here, for my parents’ struggle as hard-working, middle-class folks living in rural Appalachia. I am not ungrateful that nearly 100 years ago the young adults who would become my great-great-grandparents left their Slovakian village in Presov to seek a new life in the factories of Michigan. I am not ungrateful that my grandmother’s father came to America from French-Canada, with a suitcase in one hand and a dime in another, seeking an education and a life for his children. My family has been made better from their constant drive for tomorrow. We’re wanderers, always have been.

 I’m still privy to this promise of the American dream. Only, I know it isn’t rooted to one nation. Now it seems that the same dream fuels me, simply my compass points to a different north. It pulls me back east, again.

*

Should you find yourself in this unfortunate and miraculous limbo of calling two geographies “home”—embrace it. Do not ignore the parts of yourself that long for another place. 

But also do not forget to remain mindfully present of your current geography and its splendours, if only to evaluate where you truly belong. I am still learning this. Someday, someday, I will be home.

*

I am endlessly grateful that Lawrence & Q came to stay. They reminded me of who I am, or another part of me. I was reminded, too, that our love is fierce and boundless. Our friendship has outlasted heartbreaks, romantic intrigues, global disasters, university life, traveling-actor-life, rogue-journalist-life, Brexit, the current election cycle, rambles across Europe….and ultimately, our development as an international feminist community.

And moreover across an entire ocean. We endure. 

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