The weather has taken a turn for the worse. After weeks of brilliant sunshine and Brighton blue skies, we’re back to lashing rain and general gloom. It’s cold outside. There’s condensation on the kitchen window, and the hallway feels cool in comparison to our cozy, computer-warmed living room.
I know this weather won’t last; it’s only the beginning of August, after all, and the meteorologists are predicting sunny skies ahead. Soon enough we’ll be back to hot pavements, calm seas, and seagulls attacking our garbage bags in the wee hours of the morning (the seagulls go into hiding when the weather is miserable, but as soon as it warms up, they come out in force).
So though this is only a temporary cold snap, it’s enough to remind me of what it was like when I first moved here (wet and windy), which in turn reminds me that I’ve been in Brighton for almost a full year. And that just doesn’t seem possible. I feel like I’m still moving in. I’m still trying to figure out where things are in town. I’m still transient somehow, comfortable but not quite settled.
Maybe that’s just the way Brighton is: a transient sort of place. Not too long ago, I asked Jeremy if he felt that he had taken Freiburg into his heart. He answered with an unhesitating “yes," and I would answer in the same way. Even when I still lived in Freiburg, I felt that I had taken the town into my heart. This feeling wasn’t merely a product of having lived there for so long. It was a combination of the beauty of the town and the countryside, the people I had met there, the things I had experienced, the way in which it simply became “home." When I look at pictures of Freiburg now, I feel the inevitable tugging at my heartstrings. I don’t want to move back there, but I feel an emotional attachment to it that is perhaps as strong as the attachment I feel to Arizona.
Brighton hasn’t gotten into my heart yet. I am very happy here and I like the town (excuse me, city) a lot, but a part of me still feels like a visitor. Of course, I haven’t even been here for a year, whereas I lived in Freiburg for a total of six years. At the end of my first year in Freiburg I felt like I was just getting started, and I feel the same way now. I’m still a bit on the outskirts, trying to get up to pace, trying to stake my claim. All in all, I still just don’t feel that Brighton has become “my" city. It’s where I live, but it’s not yet a part of me.
I feel particularly disassociated from this entire country right now because I am a citizen in limbo: this morning I put my passport, Jeremy’s passport and numerous other personal documents (bank statements, etc.) into an envelope and mailed the whole lot to Croydon. Yes, it’s “Prove You Can Be a Worthy Member of British Society”-time again. I’ve had just under a year to get myself as settled and successful as I can possibly be in England. Now it’s time for the Home Office to look at all my papers and determine whether or not I’m allowed to stay for good.
The stress that this has caused me was rivaled only by the stress of having to go through all of this the first time around. Actually, that stress was a thousand times worse, but this stress hasn’t exactly been a picnic. Everyone keeps telling me there’s nothing to worry about, but I’ve been having panic attacks just the same. I’ve been lying awake at night, trying to breathe and trying not to cry and wondering if it’s all worth it, if I’m doing the right thing and making the right decisions, wondering where on Earth I belong…
Well, I’m feeling much better now. I felt better the moment I handed my precious envelope over to the man in the post office, because from that moment on, it was all out of my hands. If my passport gets lost in the mail, there’s nothing I can do about. If I forgot to enclose some crucial document, it’s too late now. If the Home Office doesn’t like what they see, they can take my damn bank statements and - just send them back to me intact, please. And if they want to me to leave, then I guess I’ll go.
But if they let my stay, then I’ll get to experience another blustery Brighton winter - something I perversely enjoyed the first time around. Maybe I’ll finally get to know this place, and its people, and its soul. Maybe Brighton will become a part of me yet.