Today I woke up in Glasgow.
Three years ago today, I woke up in Silver Spring, Maryland, looking northeastward in the direction of a land about to decide its own future.
I hoped Scotland would vote yes that day.
In the three years since, much has happened in Scotland and the world beyond. In me, too. Three years ago I also made a choice. It wasn’t the placing of an X in a box marked No or Yes, but it was as momentous and it was as decisive.
Three years ago, I crept up upon my 30th birthday in a year that rivals the worst of my life. The years since have been full of disappointment, upheaval, not a little bit of floundering, and a lot of pain. But in the midst of all that (neither in spite of it or because of it), I met my partner on a train.
What’s odd (much is odd) of our meeting isn’t so much the manner of it but the orbitals of our lives that brought us near one another many times before that day, on two continents, in three countries. When he was growing up in California, I was visiting the San Fernando valley. When he was living in Hamilton, Ontario, I was visiting Julia in St. Catharines. When I was living in Scotland, he passed through Glasgow.
Sometimes we take circuitous routes to get somewhere.
Ten years ago, I likely could have moved here. I could have gone directly from my history programme into a graduate programme in Glasgow or Edinburgh, stayed under the Fresh Talent Initiative, and perhaps by now have been a citizen. Perhaps I could have voted in that referendum in 2014.
The world has changed since then.
Sometimes I feel like my fate is inextricably connected to Scotland’s. Those choices we struggle to make for ourselves are pendulous things. Who’s to say what a No or a Yes will mean until it does? What’s important is the choice itself and the ability to make it. It’s the ability to effect change in your life and others’, and in the course of that change, to recognize that in the midst of disappointment, upheaval, floundering, and pain that wondrous things can happen, things that shift your course just a bit, just enough, so that maybe a little farther on than you expected it to happen, you find yourself where you really need to be.
2016 was that year none of us could predict. We were all there—I won’t rehash it. But it came out of seeming nowhere and shook many of us to our toes. We’re going to feel the aftershocks for a long, long while going forward.
There’s hope, though, in spite of those tremors.
When you spend a day or a decade with held breath, looking in one direction and hoping, only to be disappointed, it can feel sometimes like it leaves you teetering on a precipice. The winds can get you there, with your toes curled over the edge and your arms milling against the force of them. It takes time to find solid ground, and sometimes we slide and scrabble before we can stand again.
I didn’t make it here ten years ago. When I came back seven years ago, it was as if I was walking through a dream of maybe. My life didn’t fit where I wanted it to, then. When I left, I felt certain I’d be back, just like the certainty I think many of us feel in the quiet moments, listening to the rain. Then, as now, the key is that when we get back there, when we get back to that home-moment of maybe, of hope—that we do not try to reach it alone.
Sometimes even together it’s not enough, not quite, but togethers can grow until they can be.
It’s been three years since that day, and I am home, and there is hope, and I’m ready to move forward. This time I didn’t come alone.