~ A New Life ~

Simon writes...

Although the process of moving from UK to US Citizenship is arduous and complicated, it is perhaps easier than adjusting mentally to the new life in the USA. There are many hurdles to negotiate, not just for myself but also for my wife, her two children and the family I left behind in the UK. I am sure the process is different for each person, but I would like to outline the issues that have affected me personally for two reasons. Firstly, I would hope that my own experience may help others who go through the same process. Secondly, I believe that writing about it will be beneficial to me, perhaps in the same way as one might confide in one's psychiatrist.

Transatlantic love

Even before my move out to the US, the difficulties began. I was deeply in love with Deborah for a long time and I was forced to conduct a transatlantic relationship with her. At the time our relationship developed, she was going through what proved to be a rather protracted and traumatic divorce. Her husband was a bit uncooperative and didn't appear to appreciate that a speedy divorce would have been easier for their kids to handle.

Visiting her was relatively easy, if a little expensive, but leaving was very hard indeed. I adopted a system of trying to book flights for my next visit before finishing my current one. That removed a situation where I was in England but did not know how long I'd have to wait before my next visit. It become still more difficult. Eventually I was visiting almost every month because I couldn't bear to be away from her for longer than that. I had left my job by then and so frequent travel was only a matter of money and I had a little put away. This reserve soon dwindled, what with flights and phone calls.

Visa worries and terrorists

Eventually, the divorce came through and we were able to apply for the K1 visa. We made our application promptly, sending it to the INS on September 10th, 2001. We were very excited and started making plans for the future. The following day, the INS received our application. Soon afterwards, terrorists slammed airliners into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Another aircraft crashed in Pennsylvania after the passengers bravely fought their hijackers. Countless were killed. The visa petition was virtually forgotten.

I flew back to England soon afterwards. I did not know how long I would have to wait until I would see Deborah again and I feared that the terrorist attacks would delay the visa petition. The waiting seemed to go on forever and (although not recommended) I flew back to the US. I decided to stay there until I had heard word about the petition. We were worried about all sorts of things. Would they issue visas anymore? Would I fail the medical? Was our application in order?

Interview and success

When the petition was approved, we were delighted. I was given an interview date with only about a week of notice. I hastily flew back to London to have my medical and interview. I was approved on the spot and given a visa to travel. I had arranged to return to the US in less than two weeks.

Saying goodbye

Two weeks is NOT a long time to say goodbye to your family. Although they had known I was going to leave for quite a while, when the time came it was obviously quite a shock for them. My relationship with them had been a rather mixed one. I have always been close to my mother because she was always there for me when things were bad, but we have also had moments of great conflict. Being just two years my junior, my brother was my closest companion. We grew up together, we listened to the same music and supported the same football (soccer) team. We could always communicate with each other on a higher level because we understood each other so well. The relationship I had with my father wasn't perfect. I often felt rather misunderstood and I couldn't shake off the impression that I was regarded as something of a disappointment. But at times we shared moments that I would never forget. My sister is quite a bit younger than me so we didn't spend as much time together as I would have liked. She blows hot and cold, like her mother. One minute she is sweetness and light and the next she is like a tornado with knives.

In the last two weeks I spent with them, they all changed. I started to see sides of them that had never surfaced before. Sam demonstrated a maturity and subtlety of affection that had been missing previously. My mother seemed to become more vulnerable, as did my father who seemed depressed about the whole thing. Tim was crushed - I don't think I have ever seen him so distraught. Saying goodbye to my father, and later to the others at the airport was difficult for me. I knew that it could be years before I would see them again. I did my best to keep my composure until I was in the departure lounge of the airport and out of sight. Then I lost it. It was one of the most difficult times I have ever faced in my life.

Getting married & living in the US

I married Deborah on December 19th, 2001. My family were not present, indeed neither were Deborah's because it would have been difficult to arrange (and pay for) a lavish wedding at such short notice. Neither of us were bothered about it, however - it was a time for us and not everyone else. Marrying Deborah was the happiest moment in my life and I shall wear my ring with warmth and pride. It wasn't until after the wedding and the Christmas that followed that I began to truly appreciate the enormity of what had happened though.

I had fallen in love with a woman (married at the time) who was over 3000 miles away. She was 18 years older than me, with two children. I then left my country, my family and my job to marry Deborah and live in the US. I became a stepfather (I hate that term) for her kids and a stay-at-home man. I now spend most of my time alone with piles of laundry, books, DVD movies, pets and a computer. It will be a long time before I can rebuild some sort of a career and I will doubtless never have my own children. I miss my family, I miss English food and I hate the constant commercial bombardment of US television.

It sounds appalling, but I wouldn't trade it for anything because I am so deeply in love with my wife. I couldn't bear to be apart from her and I am quite happy to deal with the issues that arise from that fact. Although her children are never going to think I'm the "best thing since sliced bread", I love them as if they were my own and I enjoy their company in the afternoons. As far as the other things are concerned, I am confident I will learn to live with the things I don't like and enjoy new things that I've yet to discover. I have found ways of bringing some of England to the US with me (see my British Resources page) but I must be careful not to try and force my ways on my new family.

I am still settling in and I have a long way to go, perhaps many years. I need to find my place here, find something to do (like a job, hobby) and work on my relationships with the people around me.

The things that have helped

As I write this (June 2002) I have been living here for six months. Already, I have been able to make certain changes to the way I do things and incorporate familiar things in my life to help me to adjust. I would like to outline a few of those things:-

  1. I persuaded my wife to add additional channels to our Digital Cable package (with Comcast) to incorporate BBC America. Although it is soiled with damn commercials, BBC America does give me a sense of home. I can now watch some of the shows I am familiar with and I have found my wife likes many of them too. BBC World News (which is also repeated on Public Television channels) has a more balanced view of life around the globe than the traditional US news broadcasts.
  2. I have begun ordering certain foods from the BBC America website (, such as fish paste, chocolate Hob Nobs and Bovril. Although the Shippams Crab Spread went down badly with my family, it made me very happy, especially with some cucumber on 12-grain bread. I wish I could get Flora Margarine somewhere, though. When I came to the US, I bought with me several tubs of Bisto Gravy Granules. Pouring gravy over everything makes it taste better, I say!
  3. My wife regularly gets a local newspaper, called the Swarthmorean. I have started reading it and I've found it quite entertaining. It is always full of letters from locals whining about traffic lights, drunken teenagers etc. I have always been an argumentative sort of chap and I have considered getting involved with some of the local campaigns, just to keep my skills in tune.
  4. Deborah bought herself a nice car, a Chrysler Sebring Convertible. I try to drive it whenever I can and it gives me great pleasure.
  5. I have "busied" myself with the visa process. I have decided to go all the way through it to full naturalization - becoming a US citizen. I want to feel like I really belong.
  6. Working on this website has helped. It has given me something to do and it somehow gives me a link to the people back in Britain. I also continue to read and contribute to one or two British-based message boards.
  7. I have been learning how to code in HTML (XHTML 1.0 for the technically minded) and use Cascading Style Sheets. I've been experimenting with the design of this site. I wanted to learn a new skill and it seemed a logical thing to do because it compliments my desire to keep the information on this site updated.
  8. I am now a member at our local, outdoor swim club. I am very out of shape so I have resolved to try and get leaner and fitter over the summer. Fifty laps a day and a balanced, healthy diet will hopefully improve my general health over the next couple of years.

Latest news

As I write, I have now been here for nearly nine months. A few things have changed since I wrote the stuff before. Summer is over and I've not been very successful getting fitter - I will just have to keep on trying. My interest in learning web development has blossomed. I am hoping to begin attending a business school shortly to try and get an Associate Degree in Web Administration. This will be an 18-month course that will probably keep me away from doing much work on this website.

The bond between my wife and I just seems to get stronger. It has helped me to feel more at home and I pine for English things less and less. I came across a "Shepherd's Pie" in our local grocery store the other day. It apparently comes from Canada and is quite delicious. Curiously, it is made with beef and not lamb, so I imagine that the Canadian shepherds have got a little bit more than they bargained for.

The new season of Enterprise begins next week and I'm quite looking forward to it. I need a dose of Star Trek™ every so often or I start suffering from panic attacks.