We’ve been nowhere but home lately, with very few exceptions. This feels strange for someone whose life’s aim is going places and walking around looking at things. A few years ago, when we’d just moved to Paris but were away, I was talking with my mom and I said that we were going home tomorrow. She paused for a second and said, oh wow, I just realized that home means Paris. So my mom got it right away, we did in fact live abroad. It wasn’t just a trip, we had shifted our allegiances. Friends were a bit slower on the uptake. Anytime I said we were going home, they thought I meant returning to the US. Confusion and disappointment ensued. Much like this whole freaking year, but confusion and disappointment is only the tip of that whole melting iceberg.
Lately I have been fielding questions from friends who are themselves questioning home and their allegiances and wondering if they wouldn’t be better off taking off. Unsettled seems to be the word of the year. It’s one thing to choose to change your country when it’s your life’s goal, it’s quite another to feel you’re forced into it. So here’s a little unsolicited advice from Auntie Expat: just because you don’t like where your country is headed doesn’t mean moving away will bring you happiness. You’ll still be agitated and worried, but you’ll be so far removed that you could easily wind up agitated, worried, plus feeling helpless to change anything . Our moving to France coincided with Trump’s election, but it’s not the reason we’re here. Our plan was in the works before he was even a fool’s gold plated turd in the GOP’s eye. My advice: always be moving towards something, not away. Find something that draws you, rather than simply fleeing what’s (or who’s) repellent. A radical step works out best if it’s your heart’s desire. Leaving reluctantly is the way to resentment. Move to France (or anywhere else) only if it’s the best thing you can imagine. (And it’s always time to start imagining!)
So what is home for us, given that we’re flitting between 2 places while this whole Covid thing works itself out, and that my favorite stance is having one foot out the door? When we’re in Paris, it’s Paris. When we’re in Montpellier, it’s Montpellier. Paris is the tiny house with abundant cultural opportunities. Montpellier is the spacious digs with nice weather. (Except summer. I’m done with summer. I’m dreaming of the day I can wear pants again.) Mark commented after we’d moved apartments during the confinement that he paradoxically felt nomadic, despite having 2 apartments, because we could feel at home anywhere in a matter of minutes. Home for us is a way station, a place to regroup until we’re ready to set off for the next adventure. These days I’m feeling rangy, like it’s time to get moving again, but I’m trying not to lean into the future prematurely. Like everyone, I’m dreaming of a day when Covid is behind us (not to mention the election), and we can freely wander again.
There’s no gettting around the fact that things are super weird and unsettling right now, but things being weird and no worse is a privilege. I’m reminded of the great quote by Hunter S. Thompson: when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. This year has been a hell of a detour from where we thought we were going. Or rather it’s a slap upside the head reminder that we never really know what the future holds. Hopefully we’ll soon get back on the right road. Not to imply that there is a main road or a true destination. There isn’t. We’re drawing the map as we go. May we all draw our next maps well.
Good advice. I’ve been living in Germany for fifty years now, but I moved here for a reason, not just to get away from the U.S.
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