This is not for the faint hearted, or for those that have surfed here for a trivial piece of Geofftech nonsense if you only have two minutes to spare in your day. Yes, it’s one of those type of posts people. You know the score, you have been warned, etc …
I had an interesting quote said to me quite early on in an email today. It’s not as good as the very first thing that was spoken to me by someone this morning, but we’ll come back to that later and start with this instead.
The email, from someone back home this morning, which at one point said “I’m keeping a very keen eye on your blog these days -although I sometimes wonder what you’re really feeling.”
No offence, but until then a lot of emails had just said the normal sort of things that you would expect. “How are things?”, “Are you working yet?”, “Are you settling in yet?” .. and all the bog standard questions which family, friends, old colleagues, etc.. back home have asked as you would have expected them to ask.
Not that there’s anything wrong with this, but to be honest – it didn’t provoke me to come out with a complete answer. It’s like when someone says “Good morning, how are you?”, and you reply “Hello, I’m fine thanks”. They don’t really want to know how you are, and you don’t really want to tell them if you are feeling happy, sad, or whatever. It’s just something you say.
Because the whole thing seemed so easy. And I sold it to myself as being easy. When the decision was made back at the beginning of March, I wrote down a list of things I needed to do to be here:
Set a date. Organise job sabbatical. Rent out flat. Get a visa. Pack stuff up. Buy ticket and fly over.
Just like that. And when you look at it just like that – like a shopping list that might just say “Buy milk, bread and go to the dry cleaners on the way back”, it seems quite simple doesn’t it? And I just went about getting on with it in a very simplistic manner.
Except it’s not that straightforward is it? Is it? Actually No. You have no idea what it feels like. And by “you”, I mean both me and you. For like most things – until you get out there and actually do it, you have no idea what it’s really like. Or feels like. Or what it makes you think or do, or how you react to it, and how that reaction makes others around you react and change their mood, and how that mood change then has an effect upon your life and changes you back. And so on. As someone once said to me about my personality: “You dictate my mood”.
And so a ride of emotions and moods it’s been, because often it’s not easy. It’s not a simple list. It’s been fucking hard some days. And often it’s not the things which you tried to pre-empt and guess would be hard, but some non-obvious moments which trigger off thoughts and memories from the past and somehow make the present seem bastardly difficult.
Including one spectacular moment which came exactly twelve days after getting here at the beginning of last month.
I think that’s when it first hit me. When I realised what I’d done, where I was, and not that I hated it, but just for a moment – for one little moment – I wanted to run home. Go to a coffee shop that I knew. Sit in my favourite corner. Meet with old friends. Pay with pounds. Go home and watch the BBC. Not have to think about being five hours behind. Everything. And it made me feel shit. Really really shit. Shit to the point where it was very confusing as I couldn’t even get my head around exactly what had made me get up that morning and suddenly feel like that all of a sudden.
And to make it worse I was in a place – away for the weekend with people who were being ultra nice to me – but yet I couldn’t escape, and I couldn’t get away, and I felt cut-off, alone and unable to get some of my own time and space which is what I think I needed. And I had a terrible day. Really terrible. You don’t need me to go into details, because people rarely do, do they?
Even when people ask “Have you had a bad day yet?”, and you casually go “Oh, yeah .. I had a bit of a shit weekend last weekend actually”, that’s a truly copout answer because nobody wants to hear how you were in floods of tears because all you wanted to do, right then, was just nip home – and see someone, people, things, anything back home that wasn’t new, but comfortable and familiar – not to escape and runaway permamently, but just for an hour or two, before coming back again.
So I chased up my lettings agent (still no one to rent my flat – anyone?), closed down all my utility bills (Although Seeboard have STILL managed to fuck up my electricity despite four phonecalls to them), went about trying to get work, tried not to panic about the fact that I’m living on borrowed time and spending money that I don’t really have until I actually earn some for real that I can spend properly.
There seem like a million things do, and there were more lists, and everyday I’d refresh my list and do things on them only for the next day there would be new things that would get put on the list and it seemed like I was chasing my tail and doing things forever but not getting anywhere … and it all added to the frustration.
Until this weekend … or maybe just before. I think it started with a throwaway conversation on Thursday. And I then went out on my bike (see below) on Saturday. To an excellent day on Sunday. A sort of excellent day where I actually really didn’t want the day to end, because I was having such a good day, that I didn’t want to go to sleep and get up on Monday because it would break the spell of the good day that I was having.
But then Monday was good too! I got out by myself, and made myself a sort of routine – something which I probably hadn’t had since being back home. And Monday turned into a really good day too .. wow, a really good day! And more small conversations ensued – sometimes about important things, somethings about tiny seemingly insignificant things, which actually have a bigger affect on you than you realise. And then I started to realise that I might be able to get up on Tuesday morning (today) and have a good day today as well.
And at that point something happened. Well two things happened that were quite significant.
Firstly, I slept through the night without waking up. I was asleep by 11pm, and woke up naturally around 06.30 this morning. This is the first time in 5 weeks that I’ve been here that this has happened – even on nights when I’ve tried to knock myself out with sleeping tablets.
And I had no strange dreams either. Almost every night since I’ve been here in an attempt to take in and process what I’ve done, I’ve been having some bizarre dreams. Old people, friends, faces, and places have been popping into my head. I’ve been imagining I’ve been back home .. and then here again, and then a mix of the two worlds, as my poor confused brain slowly adjusts and processes everything that’s been going on.
And so I got up. Made tea. Pootled around, and felt good. Really good. That’s three good days on the trot now.
Secondly, and most importantly of all … I felt normal. Just – normal. I hadn’t really realised that I hadn’t been acting or feeling not normal I think up to this point, but it hit me then that I now was. This was quite a big thing. I had to go and tell someone important, someone that I wanted to know that that’s how I felt now.
So a yawning-just-woken-up-sitting-up-in-bed Leigh was in front of me. I smiled. I thought about speaking, but I thought I’d let her have the first words. “Morning!” she said “You know what … you’re acting quite normal”.
Oh and I smiled. How I smiled. And laughed, and looked at her chuckling for a few moments, “What?” she said, before trying to explain that I had come in to tell her that that was exactly how I felt now too, and that’s what I’d just come in to tell her, only – like all good women do – she’d got in the first word.
So, adjustment time: Five weeks. Thirty five days. Eight hundred and forty hours. (A third of which are full of crazy dreams). Or however you want to put it. It would seems that I now appear to be acting normally.
Maybe it’s not the final hurdle. Maybe it’s just the first one. But I feel like it’s a hurdle I’ve jumped, and I like it. A lot.
Some clearing up to do, I feel. Something else which helped me get here today…
A few weeks ago, I had a slight mini rant. It seemed that no one here wanted to be friendly or talk to me. Was I choosing the wrong people? Was I expecting to make friends too soon? Or did people genuinely not like me or think I was a bit odd?
So here’s the no names bit, because I want to mention people but without identifying them. I don’t know why, I just want to do it that way.
When I went to my local bar a few Mondays back, the guy in question probably didn’t realise that that was my first time out in Charleston without Leigh – quite a big thing for me, which sounds stupid, but it really was, but there was no way I could ever tell him just how nice it was to get out and do that. I probably still couldn’t convey the sentiment correctly today if I tried.
At the weekend just gone, I went out for a bike ride with a couple of guys. Actually, I say “a couple”, but it was just one person that I’d met through Leigh, because his mate couldn’t turn up as his car had broken down. And then when I say “We went for a bike ride”, what actually happened is that we rode for about two minutes, he got a puncture, he spent half an hour trying to repair it during which he broke his car key using it as a tyre lever, had to call his wife to get her to come out with a spare key .. and after we’d done all that we decided to call it quits and go and drink some rather strong Rogue Brutal Bitter. Yum. And I got the most pissed that I’ve done for a while, added to the fact the chain of cock-ups that we’d had actually made it a real fun afternoon, but the guy in question will probably never ever know how much I enjoyed it or why it was so important to me.
Leigh & I went out with our neighbour and her fiancee for a couple of drinks the other night. They have no idea (even though I tried to mention it the next day) just how nice I thought they were to me especially as they’ve now given my name to a few people including a great guy in town who may be able to put some work my way. How do you go up to someone and say “Thank you for just being normal and acting normally to me, because it’s made me act normal too!”. How? They’d think you were crazy. But that’s what happened.
Then there’s another guy I met that’s just moved in to a house one block down and around the corner from us. He popped round the other day to try and help me with a techie thing that I was trying (and failing) to do, and even though he didn’t manage to fix it either, it really made me feel good and made me realise that actually there’s plenty of nice people around. That same guy then called me up yesterday, and gave me the name and number of another English guy that he knows, who I then called and got invited to someone’s house for this Saturday morning to watch the first England game in the world cup at 9am here this weekend. This really made me feel good!
So thank you. Thank you to those people. Thank you for injecting normality into my life. I’m too embarassed to thank you in person in real life or try to explain it, so instead everyone gets to read it here instead.
It doesn’t let me nip home and see my mum. I don’t get to be able to pop round and see my best friends back home and scrounge dinner off of them. I still can’t go and buy a beer and get it served in a pint glass at a bar that doesn’t have stools by it. I can’t complain about the weather anymore. I can’t go up to London on a tube train. But somehow, I feel quite normal – thank you.
In absence of ‘Candy bar of the week’ (because it’s having a week off in lieu of my emotional ramblings) it’s probably worth mentioning that all this is being written from a free wireless point in a Port City Java coffee shop in downtown Charleston.
And with my fascination for toilets (bathrooms), I have to mention the best thing I’ve seen here yet loo-wise. I’ve seen motion sensing urinals before (where you break an infra red beam when you stand by it, and 60 seconds later it flushes itself), I’ve seen motion-sensing toilet-flushes (so you don’t have to touch the handle…), but the toilets here have got motion sensing paper towel dispensers! How fucking cool is that?
So I stood there for five minutes playing with it, took this picture, and then checked out their website too.
Now I’ll sit back and watch as you all comment away on automated bathroom devices, and not my emotional outpouring, you heartless bastards… 🙂