I’m from the UK. Scratch that, I’m from England- I think I need to unlearn to say ‘The UK’ or even ‘Britain’. You can probably already tell where I’m going with this.
Recently, my country made an extremely massive decision; I’m not going to discuss the politics because this isn’t the place for that and I’m a coward and don’t want angry comments directed at me. The meat of this article won’t be about the ramifications of the vote- after all, no one’s entirely sure what they’ll be yet- but instead about the weird disconnect of all this stuff happening while I’m six thousand miles away.
I voted in the referendum- I tried to get a postal vote and when they wouldn’t allow that for reasons I still don’t quite understand, I appointed my father as my proxy. He sent me a whatsapp, assuring me that he voted in my name the way I’d told him to, and then there was nothing I could do but sit and watch.
I didn’t have any classes on the day the votes were being counted so I could devote my entire day to monitoring the progress. While most of my countrymen were sleeping, I kept clicking refresh on the BBC homepage, watching the eventual result become clearer and clearer. The minute it was declared for definite, I texted my parents.
Then I went home and tried to convince myself it was real.
Watching the numbers on the screen, I could occasionally, just on the peripheries of my thoughts, accept that those numbers represented people and that those people had done something (voted) and that those votes were changing reality. But most of the time they were just numbers on the screen- when I texted my parents, I was the first to break the news to them, but I could have written ‘a Pterodactyl is the King of France’. Nothing made it seem solid, concrete, actual. It still just seemed like I was watching a rather bizarrely edited film.
The problem is, nothing has seemed real about the rest of the world (the fact that I first typed ‘the outside world’ is a good indicator of this) for a long time. Moving has made me a solipsist; paradoxically, I find it harder to accept that the world moves as one now that I’ve seen more of it. If I had to try and explain I’d say it’s because the parts of the planet that I now consider ‘my world’ are now spread out whereas before they were all right in front of me. But now the people I know and the places I care about are scattered across the globe and it lends every place that I’m not present a filter of unreality. My friends get new jobs, or new partners, or new babies and I read their statuses and Facebook messages and I think ‘What well-written fan fiction’. Not literally, of course.
But it does feel like someone is just playing around with the country I love while I’m not looking and when I come back, I’m going to have put all the figures back where I want them- like the little kid in the LEGO movie, except I’m the mean father super-gluing everyone in place and killing their personalities.
I know that what’s happening in my country is very real and very permanent. It’s already had a direct effect on my life: briefly, I was earning the most money out of anyone in my year on my course, because of the yen being so strong against the pound. I’ve been sending home a lot of money, so that my account has more money in it than ever before. But, ultimately, those are just numbers on a screen- very lovely numbers that I can use to buy things and I wish were higher, but they don’t hit the part of my brain that needs convincing that this is happening. When I finally return to England, things are going to be very different- they probably would have been a little different anyway, even without this referendum, but now I know it’s going to take a lot of adjustment when I go back. Logically, my brain accepts that, but my more emotional side is like Andy from Toy Story- deep down, I know that things move around when I’m not looking, but I still expect everything to be where I left it when I come back from cowboy camp.