I was in New York on election day. I watched the results roll in, relieved that Theresa May got a bit of an arse kicking overall, but dismayed that her party won a dozen new seats in Scotland (WTF, Scotland? You know better.).
But mostly I felt…removed. Because I didn’t vote.
I think voting is great. If I could have, I would have voted this shit out of this election. I would posted “I voted!” messages on social media and given really annoying lectures about civic duty and responsibility, because I really believe that every vote counts.
(Case in point: Fife North East, where the SNP’s Stephen Gethins beat Elizabeth Riches of the Scottish Liberal Democrats by two votes.)
But I’m not allowed to vote.
I’m a permanent UK resident, but not a citizen – and without citizenship, you can’t vote. There are a few reasons why I haven’t applied for citizenship (the £1,200 naturalisation fee, for one), and for the most part, it makes no difference to my life. I can live here, work here, raise my kid here, use the NHS here…all that important stuff. It’s all good until an election comes around.
I sat in my parents’ house in New York and watched as the Tories won the majority of the votes, despite this whole Brexit disaster, and I thought:
Is Britain the right place for me?
I know what you’re thinking – as an American, my alternative is Trump. While I may not agree with Theresa May on pretty much anything, at least she’s not a crazy, orange meglomaniac who tweets literal nonsense and shares state secrets with Russia. He’s worse. I know he’s worse.
But my doubt about the UK in that moment wasn’t about politics, not really. It was about the fact that I had spent the past six days in New York. My daughter had bonded with my parents, spent time with my grandmother and met my childhood best friends – and their kids. She had eaten real New York pizza and bagels. She ran around the same yard where I had played as a kid, and played in the playground at the library where I had my first job almost 20 years ago.
This could be hers too, I thought.
Moving back to the US would mean giving up a life that Adrian and I have spent over a decade building for ourselves – careers, connections, friendships. It would mean turning our backs on a country that we love, despite its terrible weather and the locals’ obsession with putting milk in tea. It would mean giving up free healthcare, a crazily generous holiday allowance (as a public sector employee, I get over eight weeks off a year), and a work/life balance that allows us to build careers while still spending a lot time with our daughter.
But we would have family nearby. And bagels.
We’re not ready to abandon the UK – not yet. It would take something really big for us to shift our whole family across the pond, along with 11 years worth of stuff and a loud ginger cat. But damn, having family around is nice.
Also nice: American toilet paper. It’s like a blanket for your butt.