Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Nancy Caroline: A Timeline, 2007-2008, or A Slower, Meandering Stroll Down Memory Lane Through the Lens of Academia

Oh man, you guys. It's been a crazy week. The freaking CUBS are in the WORLD SERIES, and
here I am, living in Chicago. Baseball games take up a good bit of time, my friends. Also, I'm
slowing down a bit and lingering a moment with the details on these last few because I'm
actually processing some of the experience as we speak. Isn't that exciting? So, we continue
with my time as an American citizen with a work visa in London, UK.

What I didn't learn from actually receiving care from the NHS, I learned by working in an NHS facility. I worked in a small three room office area with a bunch of women, half registered nurses and half “nursery” nurses who ate avocados and passion fruit and gossiped as I filed paperwork or entered data onto the local as well as the larger NHS server.

Every time a baby was born in our neighborhood, the hospital would send a new paper file and a fun book for the nurses to give to the new mothers on their visit. Each nurse would schedule a visit with new parents to discuss baby proofing and, in general, what the family would need. The NHS would provide baby gates, plug guards, anything you can think of to make the home safe for wiggling newborns who would swiftly grow into crawlers, walkers, and then little humans. They even gave away cloth diapers and fashionable liners for the diapers. There was a laundering service for the diapers too, included with, you know, citizenship.

Every week, at different locations within the neighborhood, new parents were invited to come to a baby clinic to have their child weighed (my job), inoculated (not my job), and to speak with a nurse about any concerns they may be having. It was an opportunity for struggling and frightened parents to ask lame, run-of-the-mill questions while the registered nurses stealthily looked for signs of postpartum depression. 

Baby clinics were paid for by taxes that everyone (everyone) pays in England….just as all health care in the country was paid for by taxes that every pays.
It was hard for me to hang out with a bunch of newborn babies as a woman in my late twenties with powerful hormones. I watched nursing mothers, smiling down at their children, glowing like Madonnas. I wanted a baby, but I also didn’t want a baby, you know? I just wanted to breastfeed...one day.  

The city of London was a beast. She was immense, ancient, gray, and often very lonely. I experienced a decent amount of anxiety knowing that my work visa would run out in six months, and if I didn’t get married, I would have to leave without even seeing half of her. I saw a lot, though, the Tate Modern (free), the British Museum (free), the British Library (where they keep the Magna Carta-free), Borough Market, a street food market where I ate ostrich, smelled a truffle in a jar, and was able to prove to my English friends that America made a few small brewery beers (not just Bud).

We also left London, took trains to Manchester (for Christmas!), York (kind of like Gatlinburg, TN, but English, and way less seedy, much more quaint), and . We spent a weekend in Cork, Ireland with a graduate school friend of his that was studying some kind of geology there, and we spent a long weekend in Sardinia, Italy, rented a car, and explored the rocky coast of the island. We travelled to Carlisle back in England to see Carlisle United play a riveting football match with some other team I can’t remember and to visit my boyfriend’s grandmother, who lived there and hated America and everything she stands for. She loved the Romans, though, and she drove us to see Hadrian’s wall in one of the most picturesque drives/walks on which I’ve ever been in my life. I saw pastoral in person. It smelled like sheep manure.

I had a romance with the London Underground that started out like most loves do, as a spinning, terrifying happiness. The tube was deep, dark, bright, and bustling, and it coursed through the veins of the city like lifeblood. It's always a good idea to take it slow when entering the world of the London Underground, at first, but I quickly graduated from standing on the right-hand side of the escalators to walking them two steps at a time on the left like the rest of the Londoners who were almost late for work but determined to make the best time.
We had our bad times. Some days I climbed deep down under the city and felt a sickening anger at all the bodies squeezed together on the platform, trying to fit into the next train, no one making eye contact. Sometimes I wanted to speak my mind, like people that get on trains and talk a lot, then ask for money, but I wanted to comment on how ridiculous everyone was in the spirit of bitterness that was already seething from every Londoner on the train that day.

I wanted to laugh and make sarcastic comments about the futility of the rat-race, but I didn’t dare. My accent would have given me away as an American, but I grew accustomed to the nuances underground. The first time I felt like I belonged in London, I was in the Underground, breezing through the tunnels, oblivious to the crowd, listening to Regina Spektor (probably), and for the first time, I didn’t stop to check the map to make sure I was going down the correct tunnel or to have a mild panic. I just kept going.

On the way to the Tube every morning I received a free paper telling me what Amy Winehouse had done the night before and a free paper in the evening telling me what Amy Winehouse had done that day. It was charming. Especially the one about her going to the corner store to get an “iced lollie.” Fucking precious. The paparazzi.

This happened every day until the story broke of the Austrian man who kept his daughter locked in a secret underground “apartment” he had fashioned so that he could rape her and father a few kids by her while only letting a couple of the kids live upstairs in the real world...for 24 years.

Yeah. That is something that happened. I’m not going to go into it more than to say that it is something that actually happened, and I had to read about it every morning and every evening on the Underground. You can read about it here on Wikipedia.

Needless to say, I dove deep into a depression. My boyfriend didn’t know what to do. I didn't know what to tell him. It was everywhere, this story of a monster, destroying the life of his daughter. I couldn’t understand why. Why did it happen? How could it happen? Is this real life? 

I don’t think the story made it over here in the U.S. I think there is a certain level of filtering along with a general apathy for anyone else that isn’t us. Yet, here I was in BBC land, where everyone knows everything about everywhere like a bunch of elitist nerds, having to read tabloid coverage of this...discovery? Event? Horror?

The man refused to admit he had done anything wrong until he watched her testimony, and then suddenly, he shifted, plead guilty.

We broke up. I think I never got over the advice I received from a coworker I had for a short time when I worked as a receptionist for an investment bank. She was from Peru, gorgeous, patient, confident, and comfortable in her own skin. The day we met, as she was training me for the position, she asked me about myself and, within an hour of hearing how I happened to be in London, asked if my boyfriend had any intention of living in the States if I wanted to go back one day. We'd had this discussion, he and I, and I he'd told me, no. I was on the fence, but not really. Her immediate response was "you need to be with someone that wants to be where you want to be," and she was right. It took me about nine years to figure it out, but I figured it out.

I had a drink with her close to the end of both of our tenures in London. She was heading back to Peru to be with her family while she and her husband raised their daughter, who put a kink in their plans to move to Australia and travel more, but she was not sad. She said she relished the strength and courage she felt in having conquered a city like London. I felt the same way. We parted on the Tube platform on trains going in opposite directions. I remember her on the train, waving goodbye and smiling, shouting at me to come to Peru. Still need to do that. 

I had some crazy romances between then and now. Kissed my boyfriend like we would never see each other again at two different airports after we broke up (yep, two). I fell madly in love again, and I cried some real tears as I tumbled out of it.

I just kept moving, desperate to find a way to transform my passion into my action, the missing link that Margaret Fuller found in Ralph Waldo Emerson's new school of thought, Transcendentalism. Emerson said the world is all confusion and madness because man is disunited with nature. If man were to go back to the natural world and live in communion with her, he would transcend to a higher level of humanity. 

Fuller responded that he was close but left out a word. Man is disunited with nature, yes, but, more importantly, man is disunited with his nature. The world, society, tells man that he is "masculine," and society defines that word for him just as it tells women that they are "feminine" and define feminine as less than masculine (exact same concept for race). 

Masculinity is defined as strength, power, and femininity is weaker, more delicate. Margaret would argue that nobody really knew what it meant to be a woman because women were denied the very right to know themselves freely, to own their own lives. Even women my mother's age lived in a prison of limited options, but they angrily held their tongues for lack of another choice. As roads begin to open for women, as more women fight to stay alive where most women die, we see a million new pictures of what it means to be a woman, and the more we know, the more we can share.

Fuller said they are parts of a whole, the masculine and the feminine, that we all share in every aspect of them, but, for the sake of civilization, we deny those parts of ourselves that do not coincide with our respective genders. Did I lose you? Girls wear pink and boys wear blue because that's what stores sell for boys and girls, but we are all colors. We are all passion and strength. We are all emotion and electricity. It's time to embrace it. Fuller said that in the 1840s.

We've now passed the time to embrace it. It's time to catch up.

And time to move on to the last 8 years of my majestic and fascinating life.

Go Cubs.


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