I am a Southern Studies graduate student at the University of Mississippi. I have a BA in American & English Literature from the University of East Anglia, which also included a year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I am engaged to my "study abroad sweetheart" and will soon be moving to Spartanburg, South Carolina. My blog is about academic/personal experiences and observations as an international student turned ex-pat, with particular attention to culture shock.
I won’t always love
what I’ll never have, I won’t always live in my regrets…
Today I am 24. As far back as I can remember, my birthday
has made me anxious. I’ve never liked to be center of attention. I dreaded
opening gifts in front of a circle of people, desperately trying to compose my
face into an expression of delight whilst fighting the urge to run out the
door. As an adult, it’s about more than just shyness. I absolutely appreciate a
thoughtful present, but I would genuinely rather someone makes time for me than
they spend money on me. I’m sure other July babies can relate to the fact that
there’s a lot going on with holidays, events, summer jobs – time is difficult to find.
Birthdays were really a cocktail of disaster for someone like
me. I’m a deep thinker, a perfectionist, I like things to go to plan, and I always want to please others.
But I am very stubborn. I never felt like I could live up to the expectations for a birthday and so some years I refused to
celebrate it at all. If you think I sound selfish, I actually agree with you.
I’m sure that I hurt family and friends by not being grateful that they wanted
to do something for me.
You’ll sit alone
forever, if you wait for the right time… What are you hoping for?
There is less pressure as I get older, especially with all
my moving around, but I am still thinking about how to approach a day that
makes me panicky. My solution, from now on, is to use the spotlight in a
positive way. Firstly, I want to take this day to express how much I love and
appreciate my friends and family, whether in England, Ireland or America. I
have had a turbulent couple of years, and you have all shown me so much love
and support. I could not have kept going without your company, your advice,
your comedy and your kindness.
Secondly, I am giving everyone a present. Can you guess what
it is? Yes, a real blog post! Okay, maybe not the BEST present but you’re here
now so it’s something to read while you eat lunch or whatever. I am doing
something a little artsy-fartsy and different by interspersing this post with
lyrics, but it’s for good reason.
Amazing still it
seems, I’ll be 23…
I was inspired to write this post a couple of days ago when
I was listening to Pandora and Jimmy Eat World’s “23” came on. It is a very
special song to me. I first heard it in 2005. Twenty-three felt a long way away
to me then, and I could only imagine what my life might be like in 8 years. I
distinctly remember playing the song on my iPod on Hallowe’en of 2007, as I sat
on a plane headed to New York. I had the next five years mapped out: gap year,
two years at UEA, a year in the states, final year of UEA. I would turn
twenty-three around the time of graduation, and from there was a true unknown.
Listening to the song, I vaguely wondered about location, career, and love. At
that time, I had dreams to live in the US more permanently, I thought I would
like to work in publishing, and I wasn’t sure that I knew what being in love
felt like. Every time I heard “23”, as I came closer to reaching it myself, I
would think about how my hopes and dreams were changing.
No one else will know
these lonely dreams…
That moment was 5 years and 8.5 months ago. Naturally, my
desires for location, career and relationships changed a lot during that time.
I suffered through extreme homesickness during my year abroad and felt sure I
would never leave England again; I became convinced that I wanted to be an
academic; I swung from avoiding dating entirely to muddling through difficult
relationships and finally figuring out what I wanted. But the funny thing is,
most of what I initially wished for – what I thought about during that plane
ride – came true during my 23rd year. I moved back to the US; I
pursued a Master’s and realized I want to work in publishing more than I want
to get a PhD; I’m in a stable and happy relationship.
And I still listen to Jimmy Eat World. I have many memories
of playing Futures with secondary
school friends, which turned into a lot of Clarity
and Chase This Light at UEA. It’s
funny to me that thinking about them really irritated me when I was at Carolina;
it is so fitting to how frustrated I was with life in general. They released Invented, which at first I did not like
at all, and then went touring in Europe, stopping at none other than NORWICH,
where all my friends went to see them without me. But, it got better. Their music still conjures good memories, and I have tickets to see them live in
Charlotte this summer.
Now - with the help of Jimmy Eat World - I
will tell you a few things I’m especially grateful for as I move on from 23…
I’m still driving
I am finally driving! I’ve always boasted about my love of public
transport, cycling and walking, and didn’t bother to get a license. But then I
moved to the South. And mashed up my coccyx so I can no longer sit on a bike. I
couldn’t buy groceries or really go anywhere in Mississippi without the aid of
friends, so I finally got a permit and bought a car. Her name is Caddy (who
gets it?). I’m planning on taking my test in a couple of months. And yes,
British friends, you can make fun of me because I did NOTa) learn to drive a manual or b) get TRULY
tested by enduring the humiliation of the British driving test. But I will
counter with the fact that my driving test fees cost $15 (around £10). So.
That once we said
Speaking of Britain, YES, I MISS YOU ALL. I miss narrow lanes and
HobNobs and European fashion and Ribena and the BBC and Curlywurlies and people
who know about Michael Palin and Stephen Fry and The Tea Junction. I’ll be back
in December with my strange American-Southern/English-Southern accent. Bloody
No one else will have
me, only you…
Public declarations of love are not really my thang, but I
still want to say how much I love and appreciate my wonderful boyfriend. He
makes me laugh, puts up with my hysteria and hypochondria, politely tries most
of my experimental dinners, and truly believes in me. He’s my best friend, and
I’m so happy that I will finally spend a birthday with him. Even if we will be
having vegan cake.
Don’t give away the
end, the one thing that stays mine…
Writing is still my greatest passion.
I’m very grateful that I have had so much encouragement to keep going, and
ideas to keep me working. On a related note, I am spending my summer interning
with the Hub City Writers Project, a literary nonprofit in Spartanburg, South
Carolina that is both press and independent bookstore. I have been running
their teen summer camps, which has led to new dreams about stories, teaching,
nonprofit work and more. It’s been a real privilege. Also, their conference is
this weekend, meaning I can spend my birthday hanging out with writers.
I won’t always live,
It seems I like to keep lurching around and between two countries,
despite how much I loathe packing and plane rides. Over the last 2 years, I
have lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Norwich, UK; (a total of 3 weeks in
San Francisco, California); St. Albans, UK; Oxford, Mississippi; Spartanburg,
South Carolina. I’m not sure where I’m headed after this year. I made a list of
possible cities for fun and came up with a variety including Austin, Brighton, Buenos Aires, Berlin and even “somewhere in Sweden”. Mostly I just want to be somewhere
where someone will pay me.
And I’m sorry every
I considered making my own sad face but ultimately decided I'm not as cool.
I ended up being WAY too busy in graduate school to ever update this
blog. But I have been keeping notes, and I’m hoping to have a window of time
before classes start again. I desperately want to tell you all about Oxford!
But that’s it from me for now. Happy birthday to me, but
more importantly - I hope that YOU have a great day!