Our theme for the month of February is “color.”
You’re doing it. You’re following your dream. During my last few hours in the United States, my friend Gabby gave me these words. She said them as a fact; I took them as a benediction.
When people ask why I’m moving to Scotland—and so many people ask: my friends, my family, the clerk at the bank, Lyft drivers, it never ends—I don’t feel like I have a good answer. Because I want to. Yeah, who doesn’t want to abandon their mediocre stability and jaunt off to Europe on a whim?
The truth makes even less sense. I want to because I feel something. A pull, a desire, a passion that I can’t shake. In the months leading up to this move, I doubted myself over and over. I’d be leaving my stable office job with a reasonable salary and solid benefits, leaving my community in Grand Rapids and in my hometown and across all corners of the continent, leaving familiarity for somewhere I’ve never even visited. How could it be a good idea?
But the feeling always came back. This tug deep inside me, like I needed to be somewhere old, somewhere different. I couldn’t shake it. I couldn’t reason it away. And once the idea of Scotland nestled itself in my brain, the feeling gained one more leg: somewhere ancestral.
Pursuing a dream in English-speaking Europe is the vanilla ice cream with sprinkles of international travel for a North American. I am not taking much of a risk by moving to a country with extremely close diplomatic ties to my home country, where I don’t need to learn a new language, where I have cousins and aunts and uncles all willing to look out for me if I ask.
Going about an international move the way I am—no job lined up, no particular final location in mind—sounds like a gold leaf garnish. I see people’s expressions glaze over like I’m a trust fund brat: I’m just going where the wind takes me, no job yet, no plans, I’ll figure it out. I annoy myself with my own relaxed outlook, with the incredible privilege a move like this signifies.
It’s tempting to think I’m doing this myself: I paid for my visa, my plane ticket, my NHS costs, my accommodations, everything I’m going to do in Scotland. Congrats, that’s called cost of living, welcome to real life. But I haven’t been alone. My parents and friends helped me clean out my apartment in Michigan and move back to Canada, my parents offered to buy me a new duffel bag, my friends in Canada offered to pay for my meals, a family friend invited me to stay with them for my first few weeks in Scotland. I could say I would have been fine doing these things on my own, but my privilege is not having to find out if that’s true. (I definitely could not have done the cleaning solo; I am forever in debt to my cleaning crew.)
More than anything, I’m remembering this: if everything goes wrong, if I lose every penny I have, if this move turns out to be the worst idea I’ve ever had… I’ll be fine. Someone—a parent, a grandparent, a group of friends—will be able to cover a plane ticket back to Canada. My childhood bedroom in my parents’ house will be open. This move is only a risk in the safest and simplest sense. I’m following my dream, because I want to—because I can.
Gwyneth Findlay is a writer and editor working in publishing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She graduated from Calvin in 2018 with a degree in writing and minors in French and gender studies. She also writes for the new Calvin alumni fiction blog, Presticogitation.