On August 12, 2019 I left Scotland for a myriad of reasons.
Paramount of these was uncertainty. Uncertainty about the future. Jobs, immigration, where I saw myself in five years. At the time, I didn’t know and as an immigrant, I didn’t have the luxury of time to figure it out. So, returning to the United States was the sound, sensible decision. It wasn’t the wrong decision. But, it wasn’t the completely right one either.
It was a middle decision that made sense at the time with the information that I had. Still, I know that I had inadvertently left a part of myself buried in Edinburgh. I tried to find the person I’d left here on this side of the Atlantic, but found that her shadow no longer fit.
Then, when post-graduation immigration policies changed and the future I wanted in Scotland looked like something that I might actually be able to have, I figured out what I would need to do to get it. I was accepted to my Masters for September 2020 entry, took a break from academics, spent some time traveling, learned how to make stained glass, and finally decided to sit down and write my book.
Then March 2020.
I deferred my program and crossed my fingers. I made the hard choice to leave my job and my family sheltered in place to keep my grandmother safe. I spoke to my friends scattered across the globe and waited. Truthfully, I didn’t know when I would see them again. Most were still in the UK with some stuck in central London. While others made it back to Taiwan just in time or found themselves stranded in a Norwegian mountain hut with enough food and booze to rival Valhalla. With time zones all over the place, we Zoomed the best we could and I tried to keep track of messages.
I tried to not let it bog me down too much. I watched the news. I volunteered on campaigns, passed on election information, and phone banked for the Kansas Democrats. Saturday mornings were spent making upwards of 100 phone calls. I was cussed out, cried to, and listened as people asked what was going to happen next. I didn’t know either. I read a bunch of fantasy novels. I wrote a fantasy novel. I gardened with my mom and grandma. I made stained glass. My sister celebrated her 21st in July and we drank an entire bottle of whisky on the porch.
August 12, 2020 came and went and I was still on the other side of the Atlantic. Still, I was one of the lucky ones. Here in Kansas, I had the luxury of space and sun. Maybe too much space and sun at times.
I poured out my frustrations and anxiety into something that became book shaped. I finished GALLOWGLASS in September of 2020. To help build back my writing confidence, I submitted it to Pitch Wars. I was shocked to receive a request out of the thousands of applications. Although, I wasn’t chosen, I gained some invaluable feedback and learned more about what it will take to see my book on shelves.
Then, I moved out to Colorado to work with AmeriCorps. On the day, I would have started my masters I was learning how to drive a fifteen passenger van. During what would have been my first semester, I was in the Missouri Ozarks working with the State Parks Department on firelines to develop two new state parks. We built roughly 10 mile of line through the forests and hills and burned 33 acres.
Christmas 2020 was a strange occasion and felt like those snowed in holidays I remember from when I was younger. I revised my book and submitted it to Author Mentor Match. This time around, I was chosen. My mentor and I have been busy working to prep the novel for the slog of querying.
In February and March, I returned to Colorado and worked to prep project reports and other logistical things. In April, I drove an eight hour round trip from Denver, CO to Colby, KS to get vaccinated and subsequently cried with joy in the Dillons pharmacy parking lot. Then I deployed alongside FEMA to work at a max vaccination site in Loveland, CO and saw 6,000 people get vaccinated in a week. With a quick turn around, I took up a new team and traveled to Houston, TX to assist with housing repair from Hurricane Harvey and Winter Storm Uri. I hung drywall, mucked out moldy flooring, painted, drove a fifteen passenger van through Houston Rush Hour Traffic, and spent my 24th birthday talking to the police. Nice.
However, by May, I returned to Kansas after making the incredibly hard decision to resign from my position. Without speaking long, I will say that I loved my job and didn’t even mind sleeping on a cot for months at a time. However, I found myself in a situation involving member safety and mental health and I could not fundamentally agree with how those important topics were not addressed within the administrative policy chain. And hey, if my retired Marine/Air Force general dad said that he would have done the same thing, there was probably some merit in my decision.
Nevertheless, by June, I was applying for my new visa and by July I had it in hand. I drove Crosby from Kansas to Orlando, FL and dropped her off at Disney World to start her new job. Crosby drove a record one hour out of three days and during that hour encountered both a police car chase and a flaming minivan. We love Florida !!!!1111!!!!
August was spent largely at home. Writing and working away on settling things up before I leave the country. Dad and I went for PSLs on 24 August and injected that sweet, sweet, pumpkin directly into our veins. Then I frantically panicked for 48 hours before deciding that ‘what happens – happens.’ We love anxiety !!!11!!!
Which leads us to now.
And so it goes…
Once again I find myself sitting with a gross five hour layover in Chicago. Once again, I’m doing the immigrant thing and maybe this time we can make it stick a little longer. I hear the islands are needing people…
But, arriving back in Edinburgh after over two years away is both exciting and terrifying. I know the version of me who left isn’t the same one coming back and while that can be scary – it is also so so so exciting. New chances and opportunities are just around the corner and I cannot wait to see where they lead.
I’ll continue to revise my book and write more stories. Gallowglass is really getting there and I’ve distracted myself pretty will with a YA fantasy too. I’ve somehow hit 40k in just a matter of weeks which is actually terrifying because I am the SLOWEST drafter ??? I don’t know. I’ll escape to the Highlands as soon as I can and probably be a terrible climber after living in Kansas. PSA I turned into a cyclist, alright. Ride or die gravel. Hi, Dad please ship my bike. I need it.
I’m probably going to be a gross sobbing mess when I arrive back at my flat with my !!actually condensed!! metric fuckton of baggage. Hello, I am a Taurus. We like our shit. But, then I’ll head off to get a cup of coffee and everything will be right in the world again while I cross off things from my To-Do List and see when I can do some excavating.
Anyway. Send good vibes that my bags don’t get left planeside in Chicago again or that British Airways remembers to feed me this time homies. I’ll catch you on the other side of the pond.