On Christmas Day this year, it will be 20 years since I arrived in the UK.  I have been thinking about why I came, why I stayed and the journey along the way.    I’m not sure I can claim that I had a long term plan but looking back now there are a few key events and decisions that resulted in me reaching this milestone.  It makes me think of the movie Sliding Doors where the protagonist’s life is split in two based on whether or not she catches a particular train.

There were three main things that worked together to make me decide to come in the first place:

  1. My Grandpa was here so I could stay with him.  He also wasn’t so well so there was the added benefit that I could be company for him.
  2. Brent had just moved over so in addition to having family here I also had a great friend and someone who was a bit of a trailblazer as he’d taken the leap across the Atlantic earlier in the year…
  3. I didn’t want to get a career job straight away – I felt like I need a little break after finishing my degree before beginning my career.

When I arrived I got a job in a pub (tick the box of doing something non career and typically English) and I spent some really special time with Grandpa until he died a few months after I arrived. I met and got together with a funny guy called Chris.  I set myself a target of getting a proper career job before the end of the summer or it would be time to head back to Canada. I started working in consultancy in July – just before the end of my summer deadline. I remember thinking it would be good to get a couple of years of relevant experience before returning home – this was a shift in my original plan (I use the word loosely) to stay for a few weeks.  I kept rescheduling the return leg of my ticket to Canada until eventually I let it lapse all together.

A couple of years later career prompted another key decision.  This time it was a desire to do something a bit more hands on and so I applied for – and got – a site based job in Cumbria.  I moved up there with Chris and rented and then bought somewhere to live near to work.  Cumbria is beautiful and it will always be my favourite place in the UK – I was thankful that work allowed me to live in this beautiful place and was very happy with the situation.

After 5 years on site and progression in my role but no real change to the job I was doing, my decision tree was ready for another branch… At the same time, Chris and I had decided to go our separate ways.  I started looking for other jobs and applied all over – including in Canada. A secondment came up for the company I worked for at a site on the Wirral.  My cousin Lauren and friend Sofian encouraged me to move south from Cumbria back to Merseyside – their campaign was called Liv-val-pool.  I love that they cared enough to campaign for me to be closer to them – although they have both now left the city!

I moved back down enjoyed exploring the city and being part of things in Liverpool.  There was book club, wine club, concerts just around the corner and taking a commuter train to work.  Paul and I spent some time together too and eventually recognised that we cared for each other as more than friends – it took a while although he definitely kissed me first!  (Paul disagrees with me on this point but as it’s my blog I get the final say…) So while the going was good, I stayed on.  Paul and I got married and although I have changed jobs a couple of times since I moved down, the jobs have been in the North West and we continue to build a “nest” here.  Although the decision to get together with Paul was very important to my happiness and helped to ensure I would be surrounded by love and some other things (like Liverpool Football Club, Stella the beer and Stella the dog and pizza) – we did say that moving to Canada wasn’t off the cards if circumstances took us in that direction.

When I first moved to England I missed silly things like some type of food, restaurant or TV programme.  After time missing these things faded for me and although I look forward to Timbits, Oreo blizzards and red liquorice when I go home and they are a real treat, I don’t actively miss them anymore.  I do still miss people though – sometimes I desperately wish I could go and see Mum and Dad for the weekend or go and see one of my friends’ children’s skating competitions and other everyday stuff like that.  But even if we went to Canada now I would miss people who I have grown to love over here.  There is this kind of split inside of me (which may explain my bit of an *in between* accent) and I will always have two homes.  Some things about this are great… I have learned about being British, met some life long friends and as I’ve spent almost half my life here, it’s made me who I am.  But I will always struggle with the fact that there are people who I love that I am not near too… I remember hearing the story about the footballer Michael Owen buying a street of houses and moving his family there.  Wouldn’t that be nice to have everyone you love all together in the same street.

But although I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t come – or using the Sliding Doors analogy, I’d missed the train – if I hadn’t made the decision to come here I wouldn’t have the life I have now… and I rather like that life.

So while I’ve been reflecting I also found a few pictures from my first Christmas here in 1998 with Mum and Grandpa to share…  So Happy 20 Year Anniversary to me and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you!