Embracing my Average Provo Life

Dearest Britannia: I love you, I love you, I love you.

If you know me well, and you’ve spoken with me at all in the past 4 months, you’ll know that I’ve become quite the Anglophile. Since first studying abroad 7 (!!) months ago, I’ve nurtured a deep love for England and almost everything about it. Art, food, music, culture, architecture, history, British people. I miss it on the daily, and Provo REALLY kind of pales in comparison (sorry, Provo – It’s not you, it’s me).

But lately something odd has been happening. I finally feel adjusted to Utah life, American life, and it’s freaking me out. I no longer think about the fact that men here wear athletic clothing way too often. Or the mountains and Mormons and Taco Bells and Wal-Marts everywhere. And it worries me!

Why do I torture myself like this? I know that I’ll end up being happier as I feel more comfortable in this place I know I’m supposed to be. Things will only get easier now that I don’t hate American food and American loudness anymore. But I still feel reluctant, a little ashamed, and highly uneasy regarding my re-acclimation process. Crazy, right?

Part of my fear is rooted in emotions almost all study abroad students feel after coming home. What if all the wonderful things I learned don’t mean anything? What if it was a WASTE, because, unfortunately, in my day-to-day life it doesn’t matter at all that I know who Samuel Johnson is, or what they serve at his favorite pub. No one cares that I had a touching experience hearing King’s College Choir, or that I felt all Wordsworth-one-with-nature as a I conquered a crazy rainstorm, alone, at Primrose Hill one night. My new, delightfully abstract understanding of mortality after visiting Thomas Gray’s tomb, countless local cemeteries, Anglo-Saxon burial grounds, and SERIOUSLY SO MANY DEAD BODIES EVERY TIME WE VISITED AN ABBEY OR CATHEDRAL, isn’t something I think about all the time anymore, and it’s sad. There just aren’t that many dead people here, man!

It’s a little scary feeling my memories begin to fade. I want England to take up all my time, for my experiences there to change my life here in Provo as I wake up, go to work, and come home to my shared student apartment every day.

But as it turns out, working in a kitchen at BYU (as much as I truly love it), has nothing to do with Britain. Yes, I think about British things all the time as I cut brownies or onions or whatever it is I do there (sometimes even I don’t know), but there’s nothing practical about it. Daydreaming is great and all, but no matter how hard I may try, eggplants are not called aubergines, perfect fish and chips don’t exist, and the word “biscuits” refers to bready lumps that usually make me sad because they remind me of scones without actually being scones.

In the end, my little conundrum shows something odd about me: even though I know I’m meant to be here in Provo right now, I don’t feel as fulfilled as I know I could be. It’s an odd sensation, not quite feeling like you belong in the exact place you know you’re supposed to be.

It’s not surprising. Utah was always meant as a stepping-off point for me. I’m here for my education, which has been lovely thus far, but it won’t last forever. I have no intentions of staying after I graduate. Plenty of people love it here, and that’s fantastic, but I’m not one of those people. I like the ocean, cultural diversity. and semi-urban life. Those things are quite hard to come by in these parts.

In England I felt whole in a way I’d never experienced before. I felt everything so deeply, so passionately. We’re meant to bloom where we’re planted, and I have no doubt of my blooming abilities in Provo – but in England I flourished. I thrived, feeding off of new-found intellect, greater capacity for excitement, and a deep appreciation for so many things I didn’t even know existed before getting off that plane at Heathrow Airport. Every new food I tasted, every piece of music I heard, every bit of art I could stand to behold, touched me in beautiful ways, and I, quite simply, fell in love.

I am haunted by memories of tube rides, street markets, and castle ruins, of ancient cathedrals, noble statuary, and mind-numbingly incredible museum installations. I saw the Magna Carta, guys. And original Michelangelo sketches, a Gutenburg Bible, and Beethoven’s very own handwritten manuscript. So much more too that I can’t even list here without going crazy.

I was just sooo cool when I lived in England. I was very much in my element, living a really awesome life and appreciating almost every moment of it. That doesn’t happen very often in the real world! It’s hard to come back from that!

But I have. I have come back from that, to the real world where rent must be paid and a bus won’t show up to take me to exciting British places every Wednesday morning, and that’s okay. Even though Provo doesn’t boast prestigious, nationally-supported museums, sophisticated public transportation, people with pretty accents, or anything remotely resembling a medieval castle, I can be happy here. Just in a different way.

What I do have here is great university with qualified professors who still have a lot to teach me. Classes start in two weeks, which terrifies me, but also gives me the comfort that I will be happily doing the intellectual things I love, once again, in the very near future.

I also have a solid support system of friends, new and old. Sometimes I forget how important friends are, and then they show up and remind me why I could never be a hermit. Heh. Did I mention I’m an introverted freak?

I have family here too, and I love them dearly. Watching my niece grow up the past few months has been an absolute pleasure, and something I’m incredibly grateful for. Her mom and dad are pretty great as well, as are my aunts, uncles, and cousins who live relatively close by. And, you know, they may live 13 hours from here, but having all my immediate family and parents closer than 8 time zones away is something I consider a blessing.

I also have a kitchen here, which is awesome, even though I hate the ancient range with lopsided electric coils and a not-very-good oven. But I can still cook my own food – big plus!

Plus, I have a job, which, while fulfilling a job’s purpose of paying my rent and buying my food, has also taught me lots of things about cooking, perseverance, and teamwork, which is cool – not to mention I’ve met some pretty great people there who I admire, and, above all, make cutting brownies and onions for a living bearable.

Before I get too mushy, let me tell you that I am actively trying to get back to England. Like, in the next year. Surprise! I’m a lunatic who will never graduate!

But for the immediate present, Provo is good. It’s home for now, and that is extremely all right. Things are good in the present, and things were good in the past. Now it’s just time to decide what the unforeseeable future will bring!

Pictured: a pretty decent place to live.

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