At home in Chicago, I constantly felt restless. I felt like my life was so routinized - get up in the morning, walk to work, work for 9 hours, come home, eat dinner/go out to dinner/watch TV/read a book or some variation. I felt panicked that I wasn’t DOING enough. I wasn’t getting out into the world and seeing it and exploring more than 10 days per year. I felt like a cog going through the motions. This restlessness is a big part of why I moved abroad in the first place.
Now I have no routine. Other than going to work every day, there is no set schedule. I feel unsteady. That has proven to be both a good and bad thing. I’ll go ahead and (begrudgingly) admit it: I miss certain parts about having a routine.
Like when Matt and I used to watch all our TV shows Thursday nights when he got home after traveling all week. We usually had some sort of date night each weekend. I read at least one night a week curled up on the couch in a quiet apartment and it was glorious. Ali came over after work all the time and sometimes we just sat side by side in silence and I never worried I was coming off as antisocial.
On the other hand, I’ve been #blessed enough to visit more countries in the past two months than the previous two years. I get to go to things like Diwali and have become good friends with a guy who was born in Fiji! I walk past Buckingham Palace and forget that it’s Buckingham Palace. This is the new normal, which is incredible, even if it doesn’t feel very normal.
Sunday night Matt and I had a proper date night for the first time in, well, a long time - dinner at a Peruvian restaurant called Ceviche and then to see Gone Girl at the movies. (Holy shit, I was on the edge of my seat. And I read the book!) I was SO flipping excited just to be seeing a movie! To sit for two hours and not be thinking about whether I’m spending enough time making friends or worrying about our finances or strategizing about my next job move or planning a trip or a wedding or a double date.
If given the choice, I’ll still always choose change over routine. But sometimes routine is pretty damn great.
When I was younger, I used to be surprised the morning after I blacked out. Couldn’t figure out which drink did me in.
Now I can look Matt in the eye with a shot in my hand and say, “I am going to black out after this” and am usually correct in my estimations.
I’m not sure if this is a step forward or back.
They saw my post on Monday when I was having a rough go of it, had me over for dinner last night and reassured me (for the millionth time) that this experience is completely normal, that things will keep getting better.
In response to the bit about not having my mom and sisters to talk wedding stuff, they stepped up to the plate. We talked about guests and dresses and what their own weddings had been like. And right before we all left, one of them pulled this out for me to take home:
Oh my god, my heart felt and still feels so full, like it’s going to explode, because sometimes people can be so kind and know exactly what to do or say to make you feel better and I’m so glad I’m finding those people in London.
I have to be honest, when I pictured Poland, I imagined a bleak, gray environment. My expectations were low; I was mostly excited to see my family and learn a bit more about my ancestry on my dad’s side, which was the main reason for the trip.
I’m pleased to report my stereotype of Poland could not be further from the truth, at least not in Kraków. It’s a pretty, well-kept little city, definitely one of the cleanest I’ve visited. By Sunday, I was LOOKING for garbage on the streets; there was none to be found. The town square was cobblestoned and classically European. I kept asking my family, “Where does this look like to you? Paris? Rome? Bruges?” In the end, I settled on “Europe”. There’s a nice familiarity in most town squares, even if it’s your first time.
Matt and I got in late Friday night, found the apartment where the rest of the family was, and immediately went to bed. Saturday morning we all got up early to make the 2-hour drive to Gron. That’s the name of the little town where my grandpa grew up; he was born in the U.S. but lived in Gron from 3-19 years old. My great-grandparents were born and lived there almost their whole lives.
My grandpa was well-loved in both this town and Chicago. As a member of the Polish Highlanders group, he helped sponsor 50-60 Polish people who wanted to start their lives over in the U.S. (I will never forget how startled I was as a 16 year old when a Polish salesman at a suburban Mitsubishi dealership recognized my last name, asked if I was related to Andrew Wrobel and proceeded to offer my family every kind of discount and compliment he could think of. I digress.)
It took a few tries to find the church Dziadzia (“grandpa” in Polish) helped build, but distant cousins had told my dad there was only one church in the whole town and you couldn’t miss it. With the help of our patient guide/driver, we finally found it.
The inside of the church was decorated for a wedding!
The view from the steps of the church.
Our guide translated this document, which we were excited about because we found our name on it.
Gron could not be cuter. Tiny? Yes. But really idyllic as well.
Another thing that was really important to my dad on this trip was finding the cemetery where his grandparents are buried. He never got to meet them and wanted to find their gravestones to pay his respects. Once again, there was only one cemetery in the town. But when we got there, Dad realized he couldn’t remember his grandparents’ first names. Between my past research into his ancestry and his foggy memory, we managed to recall the two names: Jan and Wiktoria. And then, right in the middle of the cemetery, there they were.
This was a really unique experience. I thought I knew everything about my dad and Dziadzia’s history, but we found out at lunch that because of the Polish Highlanders group, my dad has met three U.S. presidents! (Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Nixon) Just when you think you know someone..
After our trip through Gron, we moved onto Zakopane, a popular ski town known as “the winter capital of Poland”.
(The girl in the plaid shirt and leggings is Vicki. I’m not creepily stalking some rando.)
For lunch, we ate at Czarny Staw, per our guide’s recommendation. It was incredible.
From Zakopane, we drove back to Kraków and spent some time walking around the main square. I’ll let the photos do the talking.
It seems that Polish people are big fans of cooking meat on giant grills out in the open, which is why I’m a big fan of Polish people. The food is hearty and the residents are always ready for a good time. As we passed horse-drawn carriages transporting an unruly wedding party, our guide told us drinking at Polish weddings starts at 9 in the morning and goes on for several days. Can’t argue with that.
This is Wawel Castle. Rumor has it a dragon used to live here, hence why it’s on Kraków’s coat of arms.
After dinner, we headed back to our apartment to play the wine game Jackie had carted all the way from home. It was so much fun, probably the highlight of the weekend. Laughter, tears through laughter, family time. You get the gist.
Sisters wearing matching socks we bought at the market in Zakopane. They’re like a hug for your feet.
On Sunday morning we headed to Auschwitz-Birkenau for a 3-4 hour guided tour. (After the break, as some of this may be hard to read.)
It gets harder to write these posts every year, as we go through more things and have created what feels like infinite memories together. But here I go.
Big, I think this now marks 10 years of friendship. Where would I even be without you? You are my best friend, the one person I can confide absolutely anything to, from the mundane to the silly to the serious to the borderline crisis (in my mind, anyway). You accept my flaws and help me laugh them off. You’re one of my biggest cheerleaders - you never once said, “Don’t go!” although I’m sure it must’ve crossed your mind a couple times. Deciding to move was a big decision for obvious reasons, but one of the biggest factors was wondering whether we’d ever be in the same city again. Four years in Oxford and another four in Chicago felt like an era and still does. There were the Potbelly lunches (I’m really fixating on Potbelly today, SHIP ME SOME PLEASE) on a random Tuesday and you coming straight to my apartment from work, with the intention of doing nothing. Just sitting in the same room, content to be side by side. And of course there’s the bigger stuff too. I was thinking yesterday about your presence on the night Matt proposed and what a testament it is to our relationship. On a night that was basically family only, it was a natural choice that you should be there too. You are my sister (not in a ZTA way, kill me now), one I got to choose and will keep choosing. Friendships aren’t usually as easy to maintain as family; it’s not a given that you’ll be dragged through each other’s lives, regardless of where each person goes. That’s why I call you family rather than a friend. You’re stuck with me, kid.
And only because I love you:
Today was the first day I thought to myself, “I just want to go home.” Some days I feel like such an outsider here. Unwelcome, even. I had my third bank appointment this morning, after being denied an account twice, even with an address, job acceptance letter, visa, etc. We were 30 minutes into the appointment when the bank rep got up to make a copy of my documents. When she came back, she told me she would no longer be able to open the account for me because my middle name was not included on the letter from my employer, nor was the employer’s phone number. Of course, the other bank rep who had set the appointment up for me told me none of this. I know they’re just doing their jobs, but some of the questions feel condescending. Like they’re looking for any excuse NOT to let me give them my money. Another late arrival to work for an appointment that got me no where.
At work, I had to commission a medical writer to write a few blog posts for us. I chose the most qualified applicant, who happens to be from the U.S., but felt good about the choice since she said she can also write in the British English style. I got called out today for her work - that everything was “mostly right, but there were a few little nuances you would only know if you were English”. Fair enough. Coworkers went on to say, “You wouldn’t trust someone from the UK to give you advice about x thing in the U.S., would you?” I said if the information was accurate and helpful, I wouldn’t really care where it came from. It’s not uncommon for us to read British publications in the U.S. One of my coworkers remarked, “Well maybe that’s true for you guys, but the reverse is not.” Ouch.
With LBS, there is - not often, but sometimes - the feeling of “only students welcome”. Like a ski trip I had planned on joining in December, until a student said, “Oh, I didn’t think partners were allowed to come on this trip.” It didn’t make much difference to find out we are; the feeling still stands.
Maybe this all sounds like a lot of complaining and whining and I should just be grateful to be here and shut it. But it can be a bit isolating at times. I feel like Matt’s experience/acceptance here has been 100% different. He opened a bank account on day one, no questions asked, with a letter from his school. He has no shortage of friends because he spends 8+ hours a day with them. He’s winning committee positions and getting positive resume feedback and, from my eyes, makes it all look so easy. Meanwhile, I feel like I’m floundering.
My career confidence here is shot. There are some days I can’t help but wonder why I left my job in Chicago. Did I like it? Not particularly. But people thought I was good at it. I was “successful” - by the typical measures. Here, I feel like I’m just kind of existing. Not necessarily failing, but not really rising either. I don’t know what I’m working toward. I have no plan.
Perhaps it’s not fair to make statements like this after a weekend with my parents, sisters and Matt. Where everything slides back into comfortable, where I’m not constantly questioning myself. At dinner one night, we talked about a few wedding things. It was fun talking the girly stuff with my sisters and mom. I realized the next morning I won’t really get to plan this whole shindig with them by my side and it really bummed me out. The tradeoffs you make with a big move seem trivial most of the time; once in a while, they feel like everything.
It’s official! London is the world’s most expensive city to live (1000 crying emojis)
Hope you all have a delightful weekend. Time to go meet up with my family (!!!) in Krakow!
When Ali was visiting last month, she, Matt and I went to brunch one morning at a restaurant in Chelsea. There we encountered not one, but two, Polish staff members.
The first was the hostess. “What’s your name?”
She started giggling without explanation.
Then our waiter. “I heard your last name is Wrobel.”
I nod hesitantly, not getting the joke.
"Do you know what that means in Polish?"
"It means ‘sparrow’, right?"
"It means TINY LITTLE BIRD!" in thick Polish accent, at which point he erupts into uncontrollable laughter, not stopping until the three of us have joined in too.
We’ll see if our last name is a punchline with the rest of our kinsmen this weekend.
walex said: He means fries tho
snarkfarm said: but chips in britspeak is fries, but i’m sure you know that
1- Guys, I thought the same but there was no fry scent to be sniffed anywhere on the bus.
2- Even if he WAS referring to fries, I always want those too, so my spirit animal comment still stands.
Then: “I want chips!”
Mom: “You always want chips.”
Well hello there, Spirit Animal.