I’m here. I’m safe and sound.
I know how much I’ve wished that I had kept a better record of my previous experiences abroad, but I can’t bring myself to write down a detailed account of what I’ve done with myself since I arrived, tearful and semi-delirious, on Thursday.
It was a long, long journey. I mean, I don’t have to say this in a figurative sense because it’s actually true. I travelled, then travelled some more, then travelled some more, and by the time I set down in Manchester airport, I was too tired to be excited. Going over to England this time didn’t feel the same. I wasn’t jittery with excitement on the plane. I was dreading two layovers and uncomfortable during the majority of my three flights. I found it impossible to sleep not because I was so amped, but because I couldn’t physically find a way to sleep despite my eyelids weighing a hundred pounds. Not surprising, then, that even on the coach to the university, I was more interested in getting to my room as quickly as possible than observing my surroundings and marvelling at the fact that I was finally back in England, where I’ve dreamt of being for so long.
The fact is, Manchester is different from anywhere else I’ve experienced. As a physical space, my lodgings leave much to be desired — my flat is too quiet, female-only (despite this being a co-ed hall), and absolutely tiny. The weather doesn’t bother me as many feared it would, but it’s true that it rains in Manchester. A lot. And a sudden drop in temperature from a scorching North Carolina to a frigid northern England has left me with a nasty cold that I can’t seem to shake — lack of sleep obviously not helping.
Don’t get me wrong — I like Manchester. Can I say I love it? Sometimes I feel that way; or rather, I feel the potential to love Manchester. It didn’t grab me the way a resort town like Brighton did at first glance. It’s a slow burn, creeping into my veins and my bloodstream and my consciousness.
I’ve seen and done a lot since I arrived just a few days ago — including fulfilling my dream of seeing a match at Old Trafford (against Chelsea and in the Stretford End, no less!) — but despite all the great people I’ve met and how much I am liking the city, I’ve felt a strange sadness that I can’t seem to shake. Maybe it’s the cold; maybe it’s some strange homesickness — not that I get homesick, really, ever. I think it’s the last remnants of the bitterness and resentment I’ve held onto forcing their way into the open. I haven’t found that switch to turn it all off or that one sublime moment that will purge all the memories from my system.
Manchester is wonderful — truly wonderful. I’ve found the locals helpful and friendly, the proximity to my club and my fellow fans priceless, the university eager to welcome its students into the fold. I’m nervous about going back to school, but nervous in a good way, something I haven’t felt in a long time. I worry constantly about my finances, about doing something wrong, about not making any friends and being, well, bored and lost and unhappy in my course. But I think that’s just my tendency toward pessimism, not wanting to get my hopes up in the event this all blows up and it sucks and I hate it. Really, though, the chances of that being the case are slim.
It’s just, somewhere along the line I grew up. What I want, what I need out of my time here is different than before, and I don’t think I understood just how much until I got here and it was just out of my reach. I’m not going back to anything. I’m taking my experiences, the good and the bad, and creating something new, forging ahead with no clear idea of where I’m going or what the endgame is. It’s scary, exciting, and depressing all at once. And if I’m uneasy, if I’m not all there yet, it’s just temporary.