― Anita Desai
You see, people became more important than places. Because of that, I attended weddings instead of Disneyland, went to King Fisher rather than Cornwall, and visited “new” friends in London as opposed to Scottish moorlands. So when you ask me why I didn’t travel more and see more while I lived in England, I’ll tell you that it was because I was too busy cultivating relationships to be bothered with seeing sights that could never fill my soul with half as much love as the people of Sheffield did.
The more you grow, live, travel and learn, the more you experience the pain that comes with love. Your ability to care for others increases beyond what you knew possible. And with increased capacity for love, comes increased capacity for pain. Because as time goes on, I leave again. Loving people is truly a soul stretching experience, beautiful and bitter all the same.
Ironically, my experience in England became one of cultural fusion. The large population of Chinese students here brought with them a sense of familiarity for me. I learned how to make tǔdòu sī (my favorite Chinese side-dish) and dumplings from scratch! I was introduced to K-Dramas and (reintroduced to) K-Pop. I made friends from around the globe, from Chengdu to Pocatello and everywhere in between, but it was England that brought us all together. We were in the right place at the right time, and I’ll be eternally grateful.
“You’re so lucky.” Some have said. But it’s far from true. Having the courage to live your dreams is terrifying and fraught with uncertainty. No, I’m not lucky, I have been blessed with vision and drive. I accomplish my goals (not unaided, to be sure), and more often than not it’s taken blood, sweat and tears to do so. But it has always been worth it.
So after one glorious year, my favorite meal is a reyt good Proper Pasty and I’ll probably be well mad that I can’t pop down to Toby Carvery when I’m craving a Yorkshire pudding. Hendos is an essential ingredient in any self respecting shepherd’s pie, and gravy goes on everything. I mean it, everything. Chips and mayonnaise hit the spot every time, and Dandelion & Burdock will always be my beverage of choice. But don’t worry, I still constantly manage to get in the “wrong” side of the car, and raise eyebrows when I talk about how I need a new pair of fancy work pants.
It’s a culture of overly polite, brutally honest, kind hearted people that just can’t be bothered and I will absolutely have culture shock when I go “home”.
Home. That word has transformed in meaning for me. It definitely does not signify a singular location. It’s a feeling you have when you’re around souls that you connect with. Places merely become associated with the people you love so dearly.
So if I get back to the States and I tell you that I’ve thrown something in the “bin” or that I’m “well excited” to go to Walmart, please don’t roll your eyes. I’ve just spent a year soaking up South Yorkshire. Full of the most celestial people I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting. So if you’re reading this, and we’ve crossed paths in England, yes - I’m talking about you.