(And yet I am still so proud that I have managed to never use an airplane bathroom. I have a bladder of steel.)
Seven years ago. That's practically a lifetime. I was just barely 18 years old, a junior in college, and totally lost in life. I had no idea what I was doing, who I was, where I wanted to go or what I wanted to become. I had never lived away from home. I was struggling with severe depression and social anxiety and I was suicidal.
I promised myself that once I got back from England, I would be allowed to die. But I had to go to England first.
And thank God I did.
In England I discovered that life didn't have to be completely miserable. I could be whoever I wanted to be. I didn't have to be scared to get out of bed in the morning. There was so much to do and see and explore and eat and experience - every day was an adventure. I discovered that I didn't have to be defined by my family or by my mistakes. I discovered that I loved doing laundry. I discovered that I could survive on my own and that I could make friends - lifelong friends - and that I had stuff in common with other people and that people actually liked me and appreciated my sense of humor. I discovered that playing soccer in Hyde Park every Saturday was one of the highlights of my life (minus the time I kicked the ball straight into my professor's nethers. Awkward.)
I was still young and stupid. I had absolutely no money the entire time I was across the Pond - every week, my blessed grandmother would send me $20, which I would exchange for all of 10 quid (not very much, honestly.) I was able to get a babysitting gig for a young American family that lived next door which supplemented my income a little bit. Some weeks, instead of using the money the professors gave us to buy Oyster Cards (Tube passes), I saved it so I could buy souvenirs, supplies, or chocolate instead. There were days I stayed in the London Centre the entire day, reading and messing around on the Internet instead of going out and exploring.
There was a time when I almost got kicked out of the Centre, because I went on a tour of the vaults of Edinburgh on my own. At night. I was an IDIOT.
I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to be there, though. Truly, if I hadn't gone, I wouldn't be here today. I remember feeling so adamant that I absolutely had to go to that very program at that very time or my chance would be gone - and it's true, because as soon as I got home I met Hawk and we married and the rest, as they say, is history.
I fell in love with the United Kingdom in 2005. I have spent every moment since 2 May 2005 plotting ways to make it back to England. And someday, I will go back. It might not be tomorrow, but it will be before I'm 28. Because 10 years is much too long between visits to my homeland.
Sad story: my camera only lasted the first month of my time in England, so I have very few pictures of my time there. Even more reason to go back!