My god, where has the time gone?
It was a furiously busy day for me. I had previously vacuumed the carpets, swept the wooden floors, cleaned the bathrooms, dusted the few items in my house I hadn’t already packed up or donated or weren’t mine to take, and even washed the decking outside. My Jetta had been sold to a friend a month ago and my Jeep went to an older man who brought his 16-year-old grandson to my house to reveal my blue Wrangler was his birthday present. He promptly named it “Captain America.” My soon-to-be husband had driven my rental car to the local Salvation Army about six times already, the trunk and back crammed full of things I forgot I had in my life. I didn’t need all this stuff. I was moving. Moving on, moving up, moving in. Goodbye, Active Duty; hello Reserves. Goodbye, North Carolina; hello, England. Goodbye single life; hello, married bliss. You get it. I found myself sitting on a plane in Washington, D.C. with a silver ring on my finger, a smiling man sitting next to me, and my wedding gown carefully hung up in First Class by an immaculate male flight attendant.
That was exactly three years ago.
It wasn’t like that day surprised me. I had planned it for months – perhaps subconsciously for years – and I was hungry for the change. I rarely buy one-way airplane tickets and I felt giddy when I clicked the final payment button. I was back in control and pushing ahead with what I realized were new priorities in my life. The past had taught me I was fully capable of working ridiculous hours, putting up with various forms of bullshit, and generally running the rat race. Just like entering my first spin in Primary flight training, the world swirled around me as I focused inward, trusting my instincts and experience. It was time for something different.
Our plane landed in London in the early hours of 16 May 2015. I would not traverse Terminal 5 by myself this time, not through the long walk to Border Control, not through the painfully slow queues at Passport Control, not through the metal baggage claim monstrosities. I wouldn’t have butterflies filling my chest as I pulled my suitcase through the last set of double-doors before Arrivals, trying not to look like I was frantically scanning the crowd to find the one person I had come to visit. He was by my side, carrying my bag.
As an American ex-pat, I’ve made progress here in England. I traded in my fiancée visa for a spouse visa, which is a Biometric Resident Permit card valid until 2020. I opened my own bank account. I learned how to drive around the local area (those of you who know my paltry skills at navigation know this is an accomplishment indeed). I got a library card. I passed the UK driver’s tests (written, simulated, and practical) after a few months of private lessons. I was promoted to Major. I enrolled in, and graduated with, my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. I volunteered to teach, to coach, to mentor. I joined a writer’s group. I made business cards.
But this isn’t about just me. My husband and I had a wedding, got married, moved in together. We painted some rooms. We started cooking dinner together. We bought our first furniture. We fought over silly things, like which side of the bed we’d claimed. We watched movies. We planted a flower garden, then another. We built a greenhouse. We opened a joint bank account. We adopted a Labrador. We talked about the future. We traveled to different cities. We sampled cider, beer, and wine. We rescued some chickens.
Three years isn’t long, but that day feels like forever ago. Here I sit, large and pregnant, and wonder how the next three years will shape me. I have no idea what we’re in for, but I’m excited all the same. The everyday kicks and flips help me realize our little companion is real and forthcoming. I feel I have so much to learn. I know it will work out; I make things work out. For all the unknowns lying in wait, this I know: our next chapter seems a little bit bigger than all the others. I’m excited to get there.