Alone Time.

I have always been social. Even as a teenager, when my terrible skin destroyed my self-confidence, I had huge, deep, transformative friendships. In fact, when my skin got bad, I just got louder – in an effort to direct the attention from my face – and my friendships became more important to me.

I have never had a time in my life when I had no one. I suppose that makes me very lucky. I have always had people I loved around me. Until now.

Now, I have no one. Or rather, I have them – they are just eight hours behind me and more than 5,000 miles away.

In the panic and singular focus I experienced in the months leading up to this move, this loneliness and isolation is something I didn’t consider. I was so excited and had so much to look forward to and so much left to finish before I left that it never occurred to me that once I got here, I’d be without a support system for the first time in my life.

Having never left home in any real sense – college for me was 40 miles from my parents’ house – I have never had to rebuild a life from the ground up. And unfortunately, I’m not in school and I have a particularly solitary job, so I’m not meeting people the way most people do when they move across the world.

So, what’s the hardest part of moving to a new place, after having the hardest six months of my life?

Not having anyone to call on for last minute dinner plans or coffee on Saturday or moral support when something annoying or hilarious or wonderful happens.

I miss having people.

Imanut.

I’ve been asked by lots of people if I’m journaling this experience, and the truth is that I’m not. I’ve been doing an okay job Instagramming everything I see and eat (if you’re interested in seeing England through Amaro-colored glasses, follow me – I got really creative and called myself asarahcarter), but I’ve obviously been terrible at blogging. And now I feel really guilty about it. So, I’ve resolved to post more here. All my thoughts and feels. All my mini travels and huge meltdowns. I’m going to start using this as a forum for all things ridiculous again.

There’s a lot to say, and it’s Sunday, and I’m in bed and desperate for some crappy tv shows, so I’ll take this one story at a time.

Imanut, the World’s Most Well-Traveled Stuffed Squirrel

When Fiece #1 was a tiny baby, I spent a lot of time alone with her, as I would babysit for whole days. And it was during this time in her young life, when her parents were at work and she was an adorable living doll I could babble to, that I taught her to answer the question, “Who’s a nut?” by replying proudly and with a giant smile, “I’m a nut!” Fiece’s first sentence was “I’m a nut!” – which is something that will make me proud forever. For several months of her life, she thought that “I’m a nut” was my actual name, referring to me as Auntie Imanut. It was incredible. Fiece and I will share that first bit of mischief always, and I have made it a point to teach her terrible and obnoxious things for her entire life thus far, so when I was faced with moving halfway across the world from Fiece, I was heartbroken that our crazy times would come to a screeching halt. I had to get creative. And by that, I mean I stole a twenty-year-old idea from my aunt.

In the early 90s, my parents, my brother and I moved from Southern California, where literally every member of our entire family lived, 400 miles north to Sacramento, where no one knew anyone. We lived there for two years while my dad worked doing [secret government business] and then we came back to SoCal, a place I never left again before picking up and moving to the United Kingdom last month. While we gone, however, my brother and I were missed tremendously by our family, because we were so little and adorable and no one yet knew that we would grow up to be insufferable jerks. To keep in touch with us, my aunt introduced us to the Blue Bears, a pair of cobalt blue teddy bears that traveled between Los Angeles to Sacramento every few weeks. When they were coming from LA, they came with notes and photos of adventures they’d gone on with my aunt. (This was pre-email, so the photos and notes came in the actual mail.) My brother and I were blown away by the magic of these stuffed animals traveling up and down the coast of California, and we loved getting mementos of their visits to see our favorite aunt. It wasn’t until I was much, much older (too old, in fact) that I realized there were actually two pairs of bears, one at my aunt’s house and one at ours, and that our aunt and our mother had worked together to make their travels happen. The Blue Bears at our house would go into hiding in a closet when they were supposed to be in Los Angeles. Even as an adult, right now as I type this, I am struck by how adorable the entire operation was.

So, before I left for England, I decided to crib this genius idea. I bought two stuffed squirrels

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named them Imanut, gave one to Fiece for Christmas

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and packed the other one in my suitcase and brought it to England.

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Imanut has ridden on the Underground,

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gone to Stonehenge,

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visited medieval cathedrals,

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tried English cider,

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and checked out some red telephone booths.

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Most importantly, he’s gone home to visit Fiece and brought with him tons and tons of English junk food.

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When life slows down a bit and I have my feet firmly on the ground and some more free time, hopefully Imanut will collect goodies for Fiece from Prague and Venice and Pompeii and Amsterdam and Paris and Madrid, making him the world’s most well-traveled plush rodent.

If I can’t be there to have chocolate-eating contests with Fiece, I’m happy to have a tiny, nutty, sugar-fueled stuffed squirrel be my proxy. It is only fitting.

Orion.

When I was a kid, I didn’t have a bedtime. Granted, I wasn’t allowed to have chocolate-fueled ragers long into the night at ten years old, but my parents never commanded my brother and me to sleep. We just went to bed when we were tired, and for the vast majority of the time, we were tired around 9pm (which, as I’ve gathered from over a decade’s experience in babysitting, is a normal sleepy time for preteens). It was a system that worked.

However, there were nights when I was up later than usual, and sometimes on those nights, my dad and I would go out into the front yard and stargaze. He’d point out all the constellations we could see from the driveway, but my favorite was always Orion’s Belt. I loved the order of the three bright stars all lined up together, and there was something magical about how they were always right above us. Even as an adult, when I spent those months languishing in my parents’ house waiting for my life to “start” again, if I came back to the house at night, I’d look up and check to see that my lucky stars were there.

Lately, I’ve been having flashes of homesickness. It’s not an overwhelming feeling. It’ll just strike when my brain wanders, like when I’m getting ready for work in the morning. I’ll think, “It’s been a while since I’ve seen my parents/my brothers/my grandparents/the aunts/my friends. I should really go visit this weekend,” and then I realize that I can’t, because I’m not just in the county over anymore. Sometimes, I get lulled into a false sense of security by my own brain.

I was feeling this way as I was walking home late last night from a night class I enrolled in to try to meet more people. (As it turns out, the only people who take adult education night classes are retired and in their sixties. You would not believe the number of invitations to museums I received last night. You know, because they all volunteer twice at week.) I was walking alone and missing people (just a little) and I happened to notice that the clouds had parted and I could see the stars. And right above me, directly above the path that was leading me home, was Orion’s Belt, just as it has been my whole life.

And then I cried like a baby all the way to the front door.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/atomicshark/4301186946/

I didn’t take this. Click to find the Flickr source.

Top Five Things No One Tells You About Moving To England.

Since I’ve moved out of the United States, I’ve been sent tons of links to online lists of things I’ll miss about California or great ways to keep in touch with people far away or the benefits of living abroad. These are all very cute and adorable and I have loved them. However, there is a bit of reality missing from them, because, for example, I will not actually miss the fact that no one says that word “DUDE!” here all the time, and I don’t really care that I’m now thousands of miles away from all the potential tetanus shots of Venice Beach.

Because I am an eternal downer and committed realist, here I present a little peek into what it’s actually like to move halfway across the world. It’s been a bit of an accelerated learning curve for me because I moved from Los Angeles, a place with no discernible weather at all, to England, a place with all the weather all the time, in the middle of winter. In addition to all the new things I’ve stumbled across while building a life in a new country, I’ve learned things about this phenomenon called “winter,” like: if you are planning on being outside at any time, you should always plan on having an umbrella, hood, jacket, hat, and boots on your person; and if you are planning on being inside at any time, you should always plan on totally stripping your umbrella, hood, jacket, hat, and boots off your person. (As hugely important as this has been in my personal life, I cut it from the list because the existence of winter is not exclusive England. I mean, as far as I know.)

The Top Five Things No One Tells You About Moving To England:

5) Exchange rates are no joke. HOLY CANOLI, does the dollar really bite it on this one. A night class that is listed as £180 gets a little less exciting when it eats $305 from your bank account.

4) No one thinks an American accent is cute. No one. I’ve been here for less than three weeks, and have a social circle of like ten people, and still already I cannot count the number of times I’ve been corrected when I’ve said the word “to-MAY-to.” Look, if you want me to say “to-MAH-to,” you better be prepared to be around me when I say “po-TAH-to.” I am nothing if not consistent.

3) In much the same way everything in the U.S. takes up as much space as possible, everything in England is designed to be smaller than a huge American consumer could possibly imagine. Washing machines, hot water boilers, portions. Living here makes me feel like Godzilla. What do you mean I can’t wash my entire wardrobe in one load of laundry? WHY IS THIS IS SO SMALL???

2) Keyboards are just different enough that you’ll quote people as having said, @I love this jacket potato so much!@, while telling people your email address is ceeceehomemaker”gmail.com. (This might actually be the most annoying thing I’ve ever experienced. That statement may make you think I’ve just lived a charmed life. If that’s the case, I’d advise you to a) read the last few months of this blog, and then b) buy a foreign keyboard.)

1) You do not, under any circumstances, talk about that time your American mother threw a Royal Wedding tea party. Like, ever.