Around about ten years ago, I imagined that my life by 2015 would be quite different from what it has become. For a start, teenage me was a Francophile, and I dreamed of living in France. I imagined having a little provincial cottage, somewhere in the countryside but not too far from the city, with a flowery garden, an art room full of oil paintings and shelves upon shelves of books. I imagined being an independent woman, a successful translator or maybe, just maybe, a published author.
Of course, none of these things have happened. Francophile me turned into a Germanophile. Idealist me turned into a realist. And that independent young woman? She got a boyfriend.
I always was romantic. I couldn't wait to fall in love. But the image of me being a wife and mother always battled with the image of me being strong and independent. For a while, I saw no reason why I shouldn't have that ideal bachelorette dream for a few years and have a boyfriend. That was before I drove not one but several boyfriends up the wall by jetting off on semesters abroad and talking about my dreams of living overseas. I have been selfish, but I can't regret it. Few people have the chance to live their dreams and I was determined to take every opportunity handed to me. But when another person enters the equation, there comes a point when you have to make a compromise. And the agreement to compromise came when I realised I was finally tired of long-distance relationships.
It was about two years ago when I started to consider moving in with my partner. For a long time I had held on to that idea of having my own place, completely my own. But when I graduated university, went back to live with my parents and failed to land the dream job straight away, reality took a big bite. Today's economic situation isn't a friendly one for people looking to live alone. It's not even friendly for some couples wanting to live together. So when I finally let myself consider the possibility, I warmed to the idea. I had been with my partner long enough for it to be suitable, I knew he was secure and stable and would look after me if times were hard, and I figured it would be a great way to really get to know whether or not we are right for each other in the long run.
There was just one last thing I had to do before I took the plunge: spend a year in Germany. It was the one last selfish dream I had, the one shot at doing something by myself before I became one of a pair, and I knew I would regret it if I didn't do it. So I did it, and while at the end of my placement it hurt to tear myself away from a country I have come to love, I have now freed myself up to truly take any opportunity that comes my way, for the first time in my life.
As of two weeks ago, I am now living with my boyfriend in Norwich, UK. After we've been waiting for it for so long, the feeling hasn't really sunk in yet. It's partly because my biggest worry right now is finding a job, and job hunts tend to stop me from really enjoying things (I'm a worrier, oh dear). But little things remind me that it's finally happened, such as the objects I collected "for my home" finally making an appearance, the strange enjoyment of cooking dinner every evening (I don't usually like cooking) and the card from my family congratulating us on our first new home. Things will probably start to settle quite nicely when I finally get a job and we fall into a routine. The routine of our life.
It's not the dream I had ten years ago. I am yet to land the dream job, publish that novel still waiting to be edited and buy a pretty cottage in the countryside. But it's a dream my boyfriend and I have shared for the past two years, and we have other dreams, dreams that are slowly becoming plans. Dreams that might just become a reality, if we work hard enough.
It's enough for us, for now.