So once upon a time, a weird thing happened. I'm not usually a souvenir gal unless I can find something particularly unique that I wouldn't be able to find anywhere else (read: not magnets, shot glasses, or condoms with kitchy sayings on them). In July 2014, on my birthday actually, I accidentally discovered one of the greatest souvenirs of all time - and it's a real life human!
Falling in love while traveling isn't the same as falling in love at home. There's an element of fairy-tale, movie-like love to falling in love while traveling that doesn't seem to come with a hometown romance. You're in a new exotic land, surrounded with new and exotic people, your adrenaline levels are high, and every moment is one of awe. You can whisk away together to far away lands, learning about the world together, and soak up all the universe has to offer.
It seemed like a dream really, like he fell out of the sky and into my heart with that charming English accent and crisp British fashion sense. For months before I moved to London, I jested with my friends that they may never see me again in the case I found a hot British husband to fund my lavish lifestyle choices and jetset around the world with. It hasn't been too far off from that (minus the funding of my lifestyle... hint hint Patrick), but my four month internship turned into a two year London adventure, largely in part to my London Love. And he didn't fall exactly into my heart as much as he drunkenly stumbled, but hey, it worked out alright.
During my third week in London, I turned 22. The dreaded 22. The final year before you stop being cool, young, and hip, and start staying in to watch Shark Tank and being concerned about safety. At that point, I forged only a few acquaintances since the big move, and one (now a fantastic friend) suggested we go on a pub crawl. Perfect! Organized group fun! Sounds like my kind of birthday! Before I knew it, I put on my new strappy black jumpsuit, red lipstick, and took the town.
The night carried on uneventfully, with me dancing mostly by myself, raising a few glasses of champagne and bouncing from bar to club to bar again. In one particular bar, my small group of friends and I joined our lady circle, juggled a bit (because everything makes sense when someone asks you to juggle in a bar), and danced around each other in the way that only girls can do. Almost immediately, we caught the attention of a group of guys, apparently also out celebrating a birthday, who came over to talk to my group. But I wasn't having it, and kept dancing by myself as a tribute to my last night as a "cool, hip, young person." But somehow my dancing (or he'll argue, his dancing) caught the eye of a confident young gent with a perfectly groomed beard. We spent the entire night talking and laughing between dances, holding hands as we bounced between bars.
The next morning (read: afternoon), I rolled out of bed and crawled (or it felt like) down the hall to my roommates room. He got my number. I hope he texts me! I really like him! I couldn't get him out of my head. I didn't think he actually would contact me, using my past track record with men to justify that thought. But lo and behold, later that day, he texted me! Happy birthday missy. I got McDonalds today. So hungover. Ugh! McDonalds! A man after my own heart. A few days later he asked me if I wanted to go on a run with him for our first date (mixed messages?), which I politely declined. Didn't particularly want him to see me with the meat sweats on our first date. We opted for a drinks date and walk in the park a few days later in his favorite neighborhood, and I was terrified. Not terrified because I thought we wouldn't hit it off, but terrified that I couldn't understand his accent. It very well could have been my nerves exploding my brain, but as we walked around the park, I could hardly understand a word he was saying. After we sat down for sangria, I concluded that if I focus more on his mouth movements, I can try to decipher what he's saying by reading his lips. Perfect. Fool proof. He walked me down to the tube after, gave me a quick kiss in between the platforms at Clapham Common station, and I got on the tube smiling like an idiot. I grinned like a dope the entire way home.
You hear all these intense stories about people falling in love while traveling, enjoying a whirlwind romance, getting married in a beautiful multicultural ceremony, and living a passionate and spontaneous life together. Sounds like fun and games, eh?
I love Patrick. We've been inseparable since the day he kissed me in Clapham Common station, and I know that we will continue to be for a very long long time. Patrick makes loving him easy. I don't have to work to see the wonderful qualities he has; He just exudes them in everything he does. But falling in love while traveling hasn't been an ounce of easy. There have been a significant amount of tears (from both of us) about the terrifying thought of me having to leave the UK. In our first few months together, we weighed our options: break up now & spare the heartache later, or stay together & face the extreme sadness when I do finally get kicked out of the UK. We chose the latter option, and I'm so glad that we did. But not a day goes by where I don't think to myself, "what happens on January 31st, 2017 when I'm not allowed to stay in the UK anymore?"
There's no easy answer, and trust me, we've tried all of them. Marriage - nope, not yet. Elope in secret and not tell our families - nope, never. Green card lottery - not eligible. Seek asylum in the UK if Donald Trump is elected President - pathetically, still the most feasible option.
The only easy answer here is that every day, I wake up and I choose Patrick. How simple would it be to just break up, move on, and never have to think about immigration again? End this logistical nightmare and just pretend it never happened? It would probably be easier than what we're going through now. But I don't want that. Every morning, we wake up and we choose each other because I don't want to have to choose between caving to the government and being with the love of my life. And come January 2017, we will have a doozy on our hands, but until then and beyond, every single day I will continue to wake up and I will choose Patrick. I cannot and will not allow ridiculous policy to dictate the person that I love.
Being with Patrick simply makes sense, even if we don't. I come from the city in Chicago, he's a down south English country boy. He says things like "aluminium" instead of "aluminum." He drinks more tea than I drink water, so much so that I'm pretty sure his veins are pumping with Tetley's (with a little bit of milk). He eats with his fork upside down, and loves a Sunday roast. I love sushi and other basic white girl things. He says I sound like "OH MY GAWDDDDDDDD" and I love the way he drags it out when he says "I caaaaaaaaaaaaa(h)n't." He will never appreciate good Mexican food, and I'll never appreciate a Yorkshire pudding. And that's exactly the way that I like it. He is my love, and I am his. Everything else in between are just minor details.
While our relationship has been successful and trying at times, it is so worth it. Falling in love while traveling is the best thing I've ever had the privilege of happening to me. Since meeting Patrick, we've been to Finland, Chicago, Wales, Sweden, Ireland, Slovenia, and soon to be Montenegro and Croatia. But I'm hardly blinded by the adventure of it all. At the end of the day, when the whirlwind of foreign lands and foreign accents has faded, all you have is each other (and trying to teach the other the proper way to pronounce 'basil'). These relationships can and do work, and I'm so thankful for my little London love.
And sorry to all my friends from home that I joked with about falling in love with a hot Brit and never coming back. Oops.