There and Back Again

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” – Dr Samuel Johnson

And I couldn’t agree more.  It’s been two years since we moved back to the States and I often reminisce about the wonderful times that we had as a couple and as a family.  For five years we explored the city and built our memories in a country that never fails to impress.  Our life abroad was fairly surreal as we lived near Wimbledon, could jog to Westminster Abbey and could rapidly travel anywhere in mainland Europe.  It’s the type of life that someone can only dream of, but we lived it and drank it up (literally).  But as the years pass and our memories become a bit blurrier, London begins to feel more like a dream. 

I can still remember the night that we made the decision to move back to the States.  My wife and I were sitting in our living room at about 2 am as our daughter had woken from her sleep (again).  We started chatting about our impending Visa predicament and we lost all track of time.  Lisa’s work Visa was coming to an end so we had a choice to make:  1. Leave the country for one year and then (be able to) return on the same Visa; 2. Have my company (HPD Software) sponsor our family (which they had already agreed to) on a different Visa or 3. Move back to the States.  Option 2 was our preferred choice as we absolutely loved our life in London, but there was little guarantee of a successful application.  So what should we do?  Option 1 was clearly no good.  Option 2 gave us hope of staying in London but brought with it a great deal of question marks.  Option 3 was the smart move but the thought of saying goodbye made us genuinely sad.

As we looked at each other that night we both knew the right answer but didn’t want to say it.  Neither of us were ready to make Option 3 a reality as saying the words aloud has a way of making things real.  Sort of like saying “I’ll have a salad” when you know you really want a taco platter.  It was at that moment, when we were hoping to delay the decision just a little longer, that fate intervened.  Situated opposite our 2nd story flat sat a 24-hour bus stop, and at that moment a double-decker bus appeared with the word “CHICAGO” written in big, lighted text across it’s side (it was an advert for the West End production).  Whoever said that God works in mysterious ways was full of shit.

Tower Bridge, London

Guinness Brewery, Dublin


But it wasn’t without hesitation, fear and profound sadness.  We delayed telling our families and friends for as long as possible, intentionally lying to ourselves saying that “maybe we’ll change our minds and choose Option 2” even though we knew that we wouldn’t.  When we finally told our friends Tess and James we struggled to say the words as they were/are like family to us. Telling my amazing cousin Emily and her husband Jeremy was just as difficult as we had grown closer than ever before (they also lived in London).  Our daughter, too young to really understand what was going on, had to say goodbye to the only home she’d ever known and her first group of friends. Our son, only a few months old at the time, couldn’t have cared less.

Sometimes it takes leaving everything and everyone behind to find yourself and in this case the truth exceeded expectations.  Leaving Chicago, albeit saying goodbye to our family and friends was incredibly sad, was the best decision that we ever made.  In London we found a life that was entirely our own and devoid of outside pressures.  It was an unexpected journey where we would either survive and thrive as a couple or crash and burn acrimoniously.  And thrive we did – 8 countries visited, 14 family visits, 12 visits from friends, 3 trips home, 2 kids born (ours), 2 royal births, 1 torn Achilles, 582 pubs (approx.) visited, 1 half marathon, 1 Wimbledon final attended, 1 Rugby World Cup attended and 4 flats lived in is a lifetime of memories compressed into five years abroad.  I think I broke a sweat writing that….

Rugby World Cup

 Roman Colosseum


Since returning to the States people used to say to me “I bet it feels great to be back” and I always find it odd.  “Yes”, I am glad to be back as we’ve reconnected with our family, old friends and we’ve found a wonderful set of new friends in our area.  But also “No”; I still miss all that London has to offer.  The combination of history, architecture, cozy pubs and wonderful people are something that very few cities can match.  Every now and then my wife and I will find ourselves longing to be back and reminiscing about our time abroad, and each time we’re left with a touch of sadness at the life we left behind. Sometimes we’ll ask our daughter if she remembers this or that, and every now and again she’ll answer “yes” and it always brings a smile to my face.

So as I think back to the two years that have passed since returning to the States I can’t help but think of our old flat(s), the streets we used to walk and how London will never really leave us.  The memories will fade and time will continue to pass, but how it changed us as individuals and what it gave us as a family is something that we’ll take with us the rest of our lives.  My two wonderful children were born in London and even though neither of them have an English accent (wtf), they are a constant reminder of the adventure and happiness that London has given and will continue to give.

 Our local option, The Pig and Whistle

Manchester United Stadium

1 comment

  • I find this “article” very personal…thank you.
    Life is always changing…as long as no regrets you both are so blessed to have the past to reflect on with a vision for the future as a family.
    I feel like there will always be a place in your hearts and minds for England.
    Never say never you could be back there some day…

    Aunt Mary

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