This post is by musician Alva Leigh, our Pilgrim in Residence for the month of September. I met Alva Leigh when we were in college in Nashville, and though not at the same time, we both studied abroad in London during our college years and fell in love with the city. She ended up moving to London two years ago with her husband so he could start a PhD program, and since relocation can be a pilgrimage in itself (especially if you’re relocating to a place that’s been tugging on your heart), I asked her to share the story of her move to London here each week this month.
Even though I’m happy in my new home, I look forward to reading about Alva Leigh’s journey this month so I can pretend that I’m moving to London right alongside her! Learn more about Alva Leigh (and find out where you can buy her fantastic new album) here. -Lacy
Nearly two years ago to the day, life threw a great pilgrimage at me: I relocated to London in September 2012.
I should probably say that one cannot simply move to London on a whim. My husband Will took a place in the PhD theology program at King’s College, and I got a dependent partner visa. So until 2016 (hopefully longer!) this is where you’ll find me.
I feel like my relocation really began in April 2012 in Nashville at Athens, a greek diner on 8th Avenue. Somewhere between the pita and the gyro omelet when we said, “Let’s do this. Let’s move to London.” We decided to move out of our place at the end of July, spend August with our families in Mississippi and fly out in early September. By the end of the meal, all the questions started sneaking in: how does one move to another country? How does one do it in 6 months?
We threw a hilarious reveal party for our closest friends ‘announcing’ our decision with a sheet cake from the grocery store, kinda like it was the gender of our child. Everyone brought drinks based on where they thought we were moving—Molsons for Toronto, Pimms for London, Manhattans for NYC. I could get pretty sentimental about that night—I don’t know if that group of people will ever be in the same room again. It was the end of an era; we’ve all spread out across the world now.
The next few months felt like the longest goodbye: to my friends, my Nashville, to my apartment, to my life as I knew it. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited about what was next—we chose this opportunity with a lot of intention. But I felt like my life was controlled by this big countdown; every moment, every meal, every hug goodbye was so final.
We sorted through all of our possessions, packed away the good wedding gifts. My most stylish friend came over and took a machete to my wardrobe, pairing it down to a carry-on suitcase. We opened up our living room like a shop, my mom was on the cash register, and bit by bit, it all went away.
I worked up until the end, counting on that great paycheck, using my good insurance to stock up on contacts and renew my prescriptions. I planned lunches, dinners, drinks with people weeks before our departure date, repeating the same conversation: What will you do though? When are you coming home? Can I come visit?
As simple as it seems, before you go, you gotta leave where you’re at. And that’s a job, a journey, a pilgrimage all on it’s own.
The first stage of my relocation pilgrimage was this long goodbye. I held ‘home’ pretty loosely in my hands: a great meal, a conversation with an old friend, all those perfect familiars. Then one day in early September, I let it all go, ready to fill my hands with something new.
What is your long goodbye? What’s keeping you from letting go and moving on? Leave your response to the questions or the post in the comments.