We survived another Texas summer. This last week was so hot, but tomorrow, Canada’s sending down a cold front, and the temperature will dip below 18C/65F for the first time since April. Oh, Austin, we cannot wait!
It’s been over a year since we moved back here, and it seems that the name of my blog is now more apt than ever. I had no idea that a seemingly innocuous but catchy line from a song would become my reality.
Our family has learnt a lot over the course of the last twelve months. Those lessons were hard, and we’re still recovering. But they were oh so necessary, and I firmly believe we’re coming out stronger than we were, even if it doesn’t feel like it some days.
Realising that we had to learn some lessons was the first thing. Realising that it’s not possible to “just go back”, was another. And by that I mean both going back to the UK, and then going back to Austin. And ultimately, the biggest lesson of all: the realisation that there is no single place that really is home, but that the concept of “home” is something different for our family, that there are many places we call home, however transient, that it is pointless for me to look for that one forever home, and that that is ok but requires a complete change of perception.
We have had a lot going on. A whole year of Texas weather, Texas food and Texas music. A whole school year in Austin that followed a year in the utterly different English school system and proved to be harder than we could ever have expected. A lot of heartache, grief, despair, grey hair. Terrible anxiety and severe mental health issues that required all our strength and so much support from friends and family. And as much as those closest to us provided support, nobody really knows how hard it all was – and still is – for us as a family. Only the four of us really know.
We also had a summer in Europe that was wonderful, restorative and bittersweet. We’ve had new ideas, new jobs, new friendships. Also, a lot of great food, brilliant conversations, fantastic music and a newfound appreciation for things we had taken for granted.
One thing that’s helped me throughout my transitions is listening to podcasts. Audiobooks too; I fear I wouldn’t read half as much if I didn’t have Audible. But I absolutely adore podcasts; they inspire, educate and entertain me in equal measure. I was listening to a podcast the other day, an interview with the author Matt Haig (Notes on a Nervous Planet, How to Stop Time), and he was talking about the connection between mental and physical health. He said that if he had to pick one word that was symptomatic of our times, he’d choose the word “Overload”. Of course, my brain was thrown into overload that very second. I know all about overload! Transcontinental overload!!
I thought about the early days of my blog. I hadn’t really had any good ideas for a title, but I knew I wanted to find something that included “living in America”, and naturally, James Brown’s song of the same title came to mind (feel free to search for it on YouTube!). I didn’t pay much attention to the lyrics, just picked “transcontinental overload”, as it sounded very catchy. Now that I know what amount of overload I was going to have to deal with ten years down the line, I want to laugh out loud. Catchy title, yes, but wow, hasn’t it caught on to my life in a spectacular fashion. Nomen est omen, for sure.
Transcontinental overload was happening while I was writing this blog, which also meant that I couldn’t keep writing it from my original perspective, but rather, had to change it along with my own mental and emotional transitions. No mean feat, and probably the reason why the posts over the last few years were so sporadic. It simply took me this long to realise and come to terms with how much I had changed during that time. Sometimes, moving countries isn’t enough to change your perspective, but hitting rock bottom certainly is. I can see the desperation in some of my last few posts, the longing for feeling settled and calm. Now I know that I can’t look for those things the way I have done in the past, but have to find a new way to approach my life.
We are a transcontinental family, in constant flux, and are managing the overload as best we can. It is an ongoing process that is getting more complex as we and our kids get older. The girls are both becoming more independent and self-aware, each of them developing their own transcontinental quirks and ideas about what they want to do and where they want to live. While F is definitely more American in her approach to things and is totally used to things like showing up to cheer on her school’s football game, or getting a burger and shake at least once a week, E has rediscovered and honed the Englishness of her character, and is hell-bent on applying to university in the UK rather than here. That one year in the UK has definitely brought out the Brit side of her with a new view of herself and a sense of belonging in the world (although she is a transcontinental teen and will undoubtedly change her mind and allegiance in the years to come). They both recently acquired US citizenship too, in the wake of S becoming a citizen, and are now the proud holders of three passports. Of course, they have no idea what an amazing privilege that is…
Transcontinental or not, they are both teenagers, which means they are moody, lazy, disrespectful and obnoxious at least 90% of the time. And thus totally normal and no different to teenagers anywhere. I hope that the transcontinental overload they’ve experienced in the last ten years will serve them well in their future, and they have learnt some valuable tools to help them find their way through the dark times. The fact that they so naturally and passionately talk about wanting to go and explore the world, without fear of the new and with the ease only a true transcontinental can exhibit, is an amazing thing. Just as amazing and wonderful as they are, 10% of the time.