Time and Relative Dimension in the United States

A.C. McGrath on finding a home on a television screen, and making your way there, eventually.

Until I was 25 years old, I never lived more than two hours from the hospital where I was born in Washington, DC. That two-hour distance was going to college.

Even throughout college, I visited home all the time. After I graduated, like many millennials in the worst economic crisis of our time, I had trouble finding a full-time job. I lived at home with my parents, and, already a chronic sufferer of depression, I felt completely ashamed about it.

The first time it got really bad I had an internship where I was supposed to call back to accept the position, and I didn’t want to do it. Instead, I watched all four seasons of the UK TV show Coupling in less than twenty-four hours. When it finished I couldn’t stop crying because I literally did not know what to do next.

I became deeply obsessed with British television whilst living at home. I watched all of it. The obsession with Doctor Who was the realest: maybe I was stuck in the same geographical place and time but with the Doctor, I could go anywhere. The Doctor’s time travelling vehicle, the blue police call box called the TARDIS stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space; exactly where I felt stuck.

Photo credit: Sam Canvin

It was not just the mainstream ones like Doctor Who, however, but panel shows like 8 Out of 10 Cats and Big Fat Quiz of the Year, cult hits like The Fades and Fresh Meat. I was in love with every British actor, from Cumberbatch to Richard Ayoade. I became obsessed with the idea of moving there.

When I told my therapist I wanted to do my master’s in the UK, she told me she thought I might be bipolar: “Sounds a little manic to me.” Leaving DC was crazy, I was told, but still I felt I had to leave. I decided to apply to the Fulbright program, which in the US gives you a full scholarship to get a graduate degree from an international institution. I didn’t think I could afford to live in London, and while I wanted to, I wasn’t sure I could get into Oxbridge, so I applied to University of Edinburgh. David Tennant, after all, had made Scotland seem very appealing. They accepted me three days after I submitted my application, but after months of waiting, the Fulbright rejected me. So I went back to my part-time job downtown, and I figured I’d try again next year.

A couple months later, things shifted, and I decided the job wasn’t going anywhere and was making me miserable. I left and I was as directionless as ever.

So I thought: Why not move to Scotland?

I’m incredibly lucky that I had the resources to pay my tuition and accommodation as well as flights back and forth to make it happen. It was at times the scariest thing I’ve ever done but also at times the easiest. When my programme ended, I got a part-time job and a flat with a Chilean friend to ride out the remainder of my student visa before I came home. Last November, I hosted a Thanksgiving with people from the US, Chile, Scotland, England, Spain and Greece in the heart of Edinburgh.

The thing is sometimes you have to tell everyone they’re wrong about you, and sometimes that includes yourself. I didn’t believe I could get out of my parents’ house and I didn’t believe things would ever change, but I decided to act like I did anyway.

Now I’m home again and it’s scary as hell, but I also know the world around me can expand in an instant. Because I thought that home was a prison I could never leave, but it turns out that home is a moveable, changeable thing.


A.C. McGrath | Mansfield Snark | werkloos mag

A.C. McGrath is the co-editor and co-founder of werkloos mag. One time she saw a picture of raccoons on tumblr that said: ‘DEATH IS COMING. EAT TRASH. BE FREE’ and immediately made it her desktop wallpaper.