After Home: Tales of a Returning Expat

Since becoming an immigrant in August 2007 – leaving all that I knew and loved far behind – I have returned to the motherland on four separate occasions; each with a very different agenda and a very different vibe.

First was out of desperation.
The second was longing and pride.
Number three was sorrow and attachment
and the fourth time was to remember.

It’s a strange feeling, going back to a place you once called home. It’s even stranger if that place is a whole country.

market house 2

For the first three visits, it was easy to pretend that life had been on pause. Slipping back into old habits was simple with a familiar audience and setting but by the forth time, things had changed…people had changed, and this was hard to accept.

The first thing you notice are the differences in environment: an altered sign, a new housing development, an empty shop (R.I.P Woolies). Your heart expects everything to be the same, frozen in time like the day you departed….except that’s impossible. Time marches ever onward.

Between the ages of 15 and 23 – the age at which I left and the age that I find myself now – people move on, literally and figuratively. Once high school students, I’m now surprised to find myself surrounded by university graduates, employees, married couples and even parents. How can that be? Even something as trivial as not understanding a pop culture reference can shatter the frozen-time fallacy and damage the delicate dreamworld. Soon, I began to find my hometown to be very empty.

hiraeth

As a young immigrant with terminal hiraeth, I was always struggling in a deep internal and fearsome limbo, neither here nor there. Now, as an adult, I have found comfort in this dual persona. I have finally moved on. England is the motherland, my parent country, the reason I am who I am today….but all children grow up and move away from their parents, eventually.

This last visit helped me to discover that I can be happier as a person by embracing two national influences. It’s much easier on the heart than one person living two lives!

The U.K will always be my home and that’s okay. That doesn’t mean that Canada can’t also be my home! There’s enough room in this ol’ heart for the both, much like children or parents.  It took me seven years to finally realize this glorious but seemingly obvious fact but that too is okay.

The hard part is finally over. Now is the time to embrace the future without one eye looking back.

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