a year in reflection

Now I know I’m a bit late for a Year in Reflection post, having missed the New Year by 9 days… and secretly I wrote this post a few months ago, on the year anniversary of us living in the Edinburgh.. but I think it’s still relevant – plus, calling it a “Year and 3 months in Reflection” doesn’t really have the same ring to it.

Anyway, here’s a story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside down:

After a 9 hour bus ride from London, Kevin and I made it to Edinburgh on October 14th, 2015. After almost two months (and hundreds of £s) of attempting to get a flat share and jobs in London, we were running out of options – we needed to find a place ASAP or we would be forced to go home because, quite frankly, we were out of money. The decision to made Edinburgh our next step was made, to be completely honest, out of pure desperation. We truly wanted to move to Oxford, but we knew the housing situation there was only minimally better than in London. I thought – hey, Scotland sounds fun, funny accents, castles, it’s cheaper.. let’s move. And the next day we got on a bus – abandoning our London fantasy for a city we knew absolutely nothing about.

We arrived in Edinburgh at around 8pm and left the bus station with two large suitcases (leaving our other baggage to be collected from the station later) to find our hostel. This is when we found out one of the pivotal facts of Edinburgh living: hills. We were in good spirits, though, even after lugging our suitcases through cobblestone streets and up hills (and taking a wrong turn… thanks Kevin..). One man even offered to help us carry our suitcases down some stairs – which was an absolute mind blower for two people who had been in London for a while.  We found our hostel – Castle Rock – and settled in for the week. The next day we were up bright and early, pounding the pavement for jobs and flats. Luckily, Edinburgh is affordable enough that we didn’t have to share a flat with flatmates, which does make the search much easier.

anecdote; what actually prompted me to reflect on our past year was remembering the one-year anniversary of a particularly horrible incident at the hostel we were staying at. I’ll set the scene: October 30th, 2015, Castle Rock Hostel, Edinburgh. We were put in the “long term residence” part of the hostel alongside the hostel workers. It’s 5:30am, and the whole room is woken up by the sound of gushing water. Knowing that the hostel’s roof was being worked on, we all assumed the roof was leaking. I look over to the man across from me who is kneeling awkwardly on this bed, and I have this horrible feeling. Before I can form thoughts and warn her, a girl gets up and turns on the light. The girl and I lock eyes and see what is causing the sound. It is the man across from me, peeing the contents on the Atlantic Ocean onto his bed while asleep. He finishes, paws at his blankets, lays back down, and goes to sleep. The girl turns the light off and leaves the room. Kevin, who was underneath of me, didn’t see this and thought that the roof was still caving it. I get up, and tell him we have to leave now, and then explain. We get dressed, get coffee in the lobby, let the worker at the front desk know the room will smell like pee, and go treat ourselves to a special mind-cleansing breakfast at the Elephant Cafe. 

After what felt like forever – but was actually only two and a half weeks – we were able to move into our flat and we both had job offers. Written down, this sounds like an amazingly short amount of time, but it was hell. We got turned away from so many flats because we didn’t have jobs, got turned away from jobs because we didn’t have a flat, couldn’t register anywhere, and were still scared that we would have to move back home. We looked at countless flats before we finally lucked out on one, and we did, truly, luck out. Kevin found our flat with private landlord (meaning no agency) on Gumtree (UK kijiji/craigslist) which has potential to be truly sketchy AF. I was busy the day of the viewing, so Kevin went alone and met the tenant who showed him around. Luckily for us, the tenant took a liking to Kevin and recommended us to the landlord. We got a call from our landlord, and we were able to explain our situation directly to her. She agreed to let us the flat on the condition that one of us had a job by the move-in date, and we were lucky enough that we both did. We moved into our flat on November 1st – for me, it was sight-unseen which was quite intimidating. It turns out that we actually got a steal on our flat considering the area, and if we were flat-hunting today there’s no way we could afford the neighbourhood we live in.

So we had a place. It was internet-less for a month, cold, drafty, and old, but we were finally able to unpack. We had absolutely no money,  and I had to spend two weeks alone while Kevin’s job started and I waited for mine to start. This is another thing we lucked out on, really. Kevin was able to get a job at GAP fairly easily, since he had worked at Banana Republic in Canada (they are owned by the same company). I had what felt like a million job interviews and got rejected but quite a few (including failing an online PERSONALITY test at Build-A-Bear which I am bitter about to this day) but I managed to land at Christmas temp job at Burberry, which paid well, and I was excited for.

I won’t go into too much detail about the winter here, but I will say that is absolutely sucked. Yes, we were starting to get back on our feet and were very fortunate to have jobs and a flat, but dear lord did it suck for both of us. I was so excited to work in luxury detail, but I truly truly hated working at Burberry. I knew that I was hired largely because of my looks and my “American” personality, but the culture that existed there was nothing I was prepared for. Kevin was working horribly long and unpredictable hours at GAP with bad management and no-reward. I was only working part-time, and I think I spent every single day off I had alone laying in bed. I fell into a truly horrible depression (which, to be fair, was a long time coming) and even after my contract with Burberry ended it took me almost two months (and medication) to be able to be well enough to go job hunting.

I guess it sounds like a cliche to say “it gets better” but for us, it did. I got a my job at Cambridge Satchel Company in late February for a mid-March start. I was still working on being able to go outside and shake off the side-effects of the anti-depressant I recently started when I went to the interview – actually, I think it was the first day I put makeup on and interacted with someone other than Kevin in weeks. I really just went for the hell of it, thinking I stood no chance, and ended up getting the job that I still have now. Working retail, I think, will always suck for someone like me who doesn’t like retail, but the atmosphere and the working environment is astronomically better than when I worked at Burberry, and I think that this truly made all the difference for me. Kevin also got a new job that he is enjoying much, much better than GAP.  In May, my best friend Marina came to visit us for three weeks, and we travelled to a few different places in the UK, and it was an amazing trip/visit that I am so grateful for.

Since then, things have been pretty same-ish. We are living a comfortable life – we both have jobs we enjoy, spending money, and have gone on holiday, but we aren’t doing what we want to be doing. There are so many things about living in the UK that don’t fit with our lifestyle or ideals and that we just can’t adjust to, and while we have enjoyed many things about living here we don’t see ourselves staying. We have started the long journey of me applying for US Citizenship so that we can move to the states and Kevin can go forward with his Master’s degree, hopefully starting September 2017. There are so many ridiculous hoops to jump through and it is, of course, stressful, but it’s so nice to be able to actually plan for our future that I don’t even mind the piles of confusing paperwork and the fact that I’ll be an “alien”.

Anyway. I didn’t really start this post with the intention of chronicling our last year. Actually, I don’t know why I started this at all. To remind myself, I guess, that in a year you can go from watching a man pee in his bed at a hostel, to living with crippling depression, to finding a job that you can stand and be able to go to Paris even though you still low-key hate your life? I don’t know. Is this the curse of a millennial?

I say all of this, but know that it’s so much easier to lament on the bad. There are so many things that I love about Edinburgh, and Scotland. Particularly, the people (not that I have any friends, but I digress). There is something so lovely about hearing people you can barely understand speaking in the most ridiculous accents all day, every day, and then something even lovelier knowing that you, too, are slowly turning into to someone who says “aye” and “ehmm” and “bloody” on the reg. It is nice to know that I have heard all of the bagpipes that I will EVER need to hear in my life (kidding, I actually really enjoy bagpipes), and that I experienced the Edinburgh Fringe Festival like a local (complaining constantly but secretly loving it), and that I have spent a year living in a place that only has one season (kind of cold, kind of windy, kind of rainy, kind of sunny, all at once). I actually really enjoy haggis and I haven’t had to pay for a single medically related thing in a year (no prescription fees in Scotland!!). There is never any shortage of Shortbread, and I can get a wee Wispa from Tesco any time I please. There are so many things that are similar to Nova Scotia that I occasionally feel at home (you know, except for having family.. or friends..). There are so many fireworks here. Seriously. Fireworks for everything, all the time, any time of night.

I’m just going to end this, because I really don’t have a point. This is a continuing chapter in my life and I can only wait for it to end and a new one to start. ~ peace and blessings ~

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