Or: Can we grab our own slice of the American Dream?
Those of you who are my regular readers will know that we are the biggest Americophiles known to (wo)man. I mean, we are spending our long holiday in the United States next month and we spent our two weeks winter holiday in NYC last February, so it’s safe to say we are pretty big fans of America and its way of life.
To me, the American Dream is a mindset that I grew up with: the idea that if you work hard enough and wish hard enough that you’ll have enough and be happy. I love the American idea of “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Because if you have all those, what more do you need?
I don’t wish for riches. I’m really not that sort of person. I would like more money of course, but only so we can go on more holidays and live a life of leisure. We don’t really want or need a big house or fast cars or anything like that. But what we would like is a home to make our own. Home is where the heart is!
Which brings me back to this:
The white picket fence.
To me, the white picket fence is part of the American Dream. Of course, not every home has one – we love New York, and there really aren’t many white picket fences in NYC. Brownstones and skyscrapers and busy people with busy lives… We love it all. To me, a white picket fence does signify something though: You’re home. You’re happy.
T and I have been together a while now, and it feels like forever just because we are so comfortable with each other. A lot of the time people say that as if comfort is a bad thing, and it really isn’t like that for us at all. I love comfort! Who wants to be uncomfortable?! I met him when I was least expecting it. I wasn’t looking for a relationship – I had not long come out of a very long term relationship and was already embroiled in all sorts of not-especially-productive relationships with people who were definitely not right in the long term. When I least expected it – I met my forever guy.
Meeting T was like coming home (to a little cottage with a white picket fence!). After ten years of trying and never being quite there – of trying to be someone I wasn’t – I found someone who understands me. And it was entirely by accident. He wasn’t at all what I had imagined I wanted from a man. I’d always gone out with guys who were the polar opposite of me – and I married one who was so different that eventually we went down really different paths.
(There’s a lot to be said for marrying your opposite, I think – it’s not all bad. I am the kind of person who likes to be challenged and who is interested in meeting new people, and having different experiences. I think it’s good to have someone who can introduce you to different things – and we did have a great life together, and some really fantastic experiences. But we hurt each other pretty badly, and it wasn’t something we could continue.)
But meeting someone with whom you have so much in common, it’s like coming home. Meeting T it was really just like: Oh, hello, you. When we first met, we found out we had all sorts of things in common. For one: we were both adopted as babies. We both have a gay sibling. (Neither of those two are something you can really try to have in common! You just do. I’m definitely not advocating dating based on your birth provenance or sibling orientation!) We have had similar experiences of work and have worked in similar environments and even worked at the same company at one point – though not at the same time. We went out to the same places for socialising and we even took the same train into London in the mornings, just from different directions – it’s amazing that we’d never met before we met! We always say that we would have met eventually. It’s like the universe just kept putting us in the position to meet and we kept missing each other – but we found each other in the end.
We have all these things in common but it’s also in the things we like and the values we hold. We love the same things, and I think if you love the same things then it’s pretty easy to love each other. Here are some of our favourite things…
America – Having grown up overseas (ie not the UK and not the USA!) I had quite an “expat” type experience, and that meant that a lot of my early influences were American. Generally when you have that kind of expat lifestyle there are a lot of Americans and a lot of Brits. Apparently when I was younger, I sounded a bit American. I think I just love that ebullience and can-do attitude that embodies America. (I’m not entirely naive – I know that there are bad bits too, just like there are bad bits about Britain… I guess what I’m saying is that I like the good bits and I try and minimise the bad bits.) I like American food. I like the confidence. I like saying what you think and being optimistic. Often in the UK it’s like we pride ourselves on being sarcastic and pessimistic (and the rain! Jeez, the rain!) and so I like that whole “Have a nice day!” smiliness that you get in the USA. When I was with my ex, he hated America and the “fake” (in his opinion) optimism and that outgoing thing that Americans have. So we never went. When I met T, he whisked me off to NYC for our first Valentine’s day just a few months in – which is when I knew he was a keeper!
Disney – Needless to say, if you’ve read my blog lately you’ll realise we both love Disney. In my ex years I think I kind of subsumed that part of myself, but as a child I absolutely adored Disney, and the highlight of my young life was when we went to Disneyland in California. I can’t imagine a happier place. When I met T, our very first holiday (after about a month!) was my surprise trip to Disneyland Paris. We went on all the rides, and it rained, and we still had a great time. I was amazed that someone would do something so nice for me, to take me to that happy place. We’ve been back every year and post-IVF and miscarriage we made a decision to spend our long holiday this year in Orlando. It’s pretty much the dream. I can’t wait!
Christmas – We both love Christmas! Especially all the build up. I love everything about Christmas. It’s like a family festival… and I’m sure that Thanksgiving is even better. (In the absence of Thanksgiving in the UK, we have family get togethers and turkey at Christmas.) To me it represents a celebration of family (I’m not religious) and a look back over the year and some new beginnings… looking forward to the next year. It’s winter and cinnamon and nice food and giving gifts and making things for people. It’s fun and everyone’s happy. Of course this is Christmas in my head (and at Disney!) but it’s a good thing to look forward to. Last Christmas we had both sets of parents over and it was brilliant – we did our best in our tiny kitchen but it was just really nice to be able to do that for the parents. They had a great time! I think we’re now at the time of our lives where we want to be able to do nice things for our folks. I think it’s important to have that time celebrating family and giving.
Being happy – We’re both the kinds of people who want to be happy and who actively make choices to try and be happy. Now, I’m not saying it’s that easy, and of course bad things happen. We can’t go around with inane grins on our faces all the time – we’re British! We don’t do that sort of thing! But we have similar outlooks on life; neither of us want to spend our lives being sad or angry about things. We sometimes talk about adoption and how some people end up more sad or angry than happy, and without expressing judgement, that’s not our experience. We are both people who feel like we’ve been fortunate and made the best of things. I know when T is around, I can’t be unhappy for long – we even have arguments once in a while but we always make up. It’s difficult to be unhappy when you have a wonderful dog and a guy who tells terrible jokes and tells you he loves you every single day.
Taking a chance – As the ABBA song goes… Take a chance on me. We are those kind of people who do. Thing is: Nothing is irrevocable. I always try and live my life by the mantra that you can change stuff if you want to, and there’s no point worrying about the things you can’t. I am a take-a-chancer, and so is T. And that includes some biggies: wanting kids (being willing to say “Let’s do IVF” when he knew about my fertility issues); always being happy in a day (see above); getting a dog when neither of us had ever had one before, and moving in together and setting up home together when we’d only known each other for a short time. I think if you don’t try then you don’t get anywhere, but that’s just me. I never want to take things for granted either – I really try and be grateful every day for what I’ve got, not because I feel like I have to be “the grateful adoptee” or anything like that, but because I think all people should be grateful if they have enough. And if you’re open to having lots of new experiences then you get to experience some pretty great things.
Home – Wanting to build a home together. I think it’s important that you’re at least a bit aligned on this one. Having been with someone who wanted very different things, I realised it’s difficult if you aren’t home roughly the same amount – I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer but it’s good if you both want to be home in roughly the same proportions. (Since getting Dog, I think I may want to be home more than he does! But we are fairly balanced.) What’s nice about someone else who feels the same is that you can have a similar vision of what you want. Like we live in a place with double height ceilings so we have this gigantic Christmas tree that we put up in December – it makes the place really homely. We like doing little things that make the home nicer. And we like spending time at home, and having a life together.
And so it comes to this: We moved in pretty quickly after we met. From the start we kind of lived between both of our flats, but we rented our own place together within a few months, and we’ve been in our current rented place for over a year. And for a while now we’ve been talking about buying somewhere – a place we could raise our family (the family we still hope we’re having). We would have done this earlier and it was always complicated by things with my ex – we still have to sort out some financial stuff and it means I’m not entirely free to go and start again, because I still have financial commitments. But I’ve saved hard over the past year (“encouraged” or should we say goaded on by T) and paid down a load of debts and tried very hard to come up with some savings so we can try and get a deposit.
And we’ve looked at a few places – none of which were quite right.
Until this weekend: We went to a place we hadn’t been to before. It was somewhere I hadn’t really ever thought of looking, but we went there and loved it. When we saw the house, I thought “That’s somewhere I could live” and T did too. It’s not big; it’s a little cottage. And it had a white picket fence.
It’s like it was made for us! It’s a nice little place with a little garden that Dog could run around in and close to the places where we could take Dog for a walk. There’s a shopping area with some shops and restaurants. And some nice pubs nearby. For future things… It is in a good school catchment area so if we ever managed to have a child then the child could go to a good school! And it’s still possible to commute in to the City. We are thinking if we can get all the parts of our deposit scraped together then we might be able to put in an offer on it this week.
Thing is, I know we might never get that cottage. There are lots of ifs and buts and we might have to save up a bit longer to afford a place of our own. But we have taken the first step; we have a plan. We want the same things and we’re optimistic.
And here are the things I know… I already have my home and my white picket fence, even if the home is where the heart is rather than the mortgage, and the fence itself is still a figment of our imagination more than an actual physical fence.
And I have this… My partner in crime T, and kissing on the lips and saying “I love you” every single day. Dancing stupidly when the mood takes us. Sitting quietly when we feel like it and going out and having new experiences when we grab the opportunity. Loving Dog – that’s a lot of it. Loving life – that’s the most of it. And still… trying to make a new life if we possibly can… and if we can’t: having a great life anyway.
Home isn’t a physical place. It’s where the heart is. It’s where happiness is.
These are the things that matter.