Discuss and debate the issues that mean the most to you.
At the time of writing this, I am 16 days, 21 hours, 13 minutes and 15 seconds away from leaving London Gatwick Airport. (I don't know how they get away with calling it London. It's not. It should be called "Big Field Quite Close to a Town That's 30 Miles From London Airport," but that's another story.) I'll be boarding a flying tin can and heading over to the United States of America.
This is the long-saved-for first part of a trip that culminates in my being a bridesmaid for my Mum and the man I already refer to as my stepdad at their wedding in the Caribbean. When I say that I'm excited, it doesn't even come close. I am practically WEEING MY PANTS every day now.
I've been counting down and saving up for this trip for well over a year. If you know me at all you'll know I really love online shopping, so every ASOS basket I've discarded has been a small victory. I've been eating ramen for lunch for a month straight. That's not really a hardship though as I really love ramen. Ramen is the lunch of CHAMPIONS.
The first part of the trip will be in Florida, where I am going to roll around like a manatee, hopefully see some manatees because I am OBSESSED, shove beige food into every orifice, eat chicken tenders every day like a boss, read a ton of books (recommendations gratefully received) and at the end of it, go and watch an NFL game with Claire "XORAMENBURGER" Lower and hopefully Marianne "xoNAILS4LIFE" Kirby!
I'm so sorry for all the caps lock. I stayed at my Mum's house last night and this morning she made me two cups of tea before I'd even properly woken up and I'm fully buzzed. AND SO EXCITED!
Anyway. Calm down, Natalie. Chill.
When I've been planning in my head all the exciting things I'm going to be doing and eating, I've been focusing on all the things you can't get or do in the UK. We'll go to a Walmart every single night if we want to. I'm going to test ALL the foundations and lipsticks you can't buy at home. I'll finally visit an Ulta Beauty -- the thought of which makes me unfathomably thrilled. We'll buy Oreos with peanut butter filling.
In fact, we'll take full advantage of the "peanut butter with everything" movement and buy Nutter Butters and Butterfinger covered pretzels and buy HUGE tubs of Peter Pan Extra Crunchy and sweep large globs of it out with our fingers as soon as we get in the car.
We'll go and see American Football. We'll take advantage of the big wide roads that stretch out flat and without potholes.
We'll buy Garrett's Popcorn (Chicago Mix, of course). We'll watch "MILLION DOLLAR LISTING"!! God, I hope that's still on.
In fact, I've kind of been swept up in all this excitement so much that it's made where I am now lose its appeal. England has seemed even more grey than usual, my umbrella a constant companion and two pairs of pumps binned because they got ruined in the rain. Our snacks seem utter rubbish in comparison. Our telly is bland and decidedly lacking the signature "Executive Producer: Ryan Seacrest" flourish.
But then Claire emailed me a few days ago, asking if we could bring over some British crisps.
"But why?" was my first thought. "They've got Pringles that taste of PECAN PIE over there!"
As she listed some brands and flavors she'd like to try (unbeknownst to her, a fabulous xoReader was reading her mind and packaging up a selection for her already), I realized that I'd been taking my own little Island home for granted. This is the country that bought you crisps that were flavored like HEDGEHOGS, for God's sake.
Crisps were the thing that made me realize how much I really take for granted in my life. I spend so much time concentrating on the things I can't have, or that other people can easily have that sometimes the great things I have available to me pass me by -- I might be lusting after American peanut butter, but I can buy Space Raiders if I want. Which I don't, because they're gross. (Sorry, Claire! Can we still be friends? I love you.)
I sat for a while and had a proper think. I realized that I've now been in good health, minus the seemingly never-ending edema left from my course of steroids, for a good few months. Months. Not the good day here and there, or maybe a good week. Actual months.
I spent so long waking up every morning completely broken and tired and terrified that it felt normal, but now, now I wake up, take my medication and get on with living. I can socialize and be active, I can eat proper meals and make plans. I'm going on a really great trip and I'm not giving my illness a second thought, other than making sure that I have enough medication packed to see me through. It's amazing and precious and special and brilliant and all the hyperbole I can muster and I've been taking it all for granted.
It's so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day monotony, that the bigger picture gets lost -- if not lost, then maybe a little foggy. I may not be able to go and watch a manatee today, but as I sit on the train home, as it speeds through rolling green, I'm going to put down my phone, look straight out of the window and appreciate what I'm lucky enough to see.
Being thankful on Twitter: @Natalie_KateM.