Surprisingly, I haven’t yet posted about the fact that we are in the middle of a massive life change (again…!). We’re currently enroute to Santiago, Chile, where we will live for 3 years. The short of it is, my husband (Joachim) was offered a great position with his company, and we decided to take on a new adventure: Latin America. Why not, right? (insert deep sigh here). I’ll be continuing my PhD part time from Chile, and will fly back to Oz a few times during the year for some teaching/facilitation/PhD work. Thus the flavour of my writing will likely take on a bit more of an intercultural theme – I’m sure I’ll have interesting stories and embarrassing moments to share about living abroad. So far I dont speak a word of Spanish and I’ve never spent any real time in Chile, so I imagine when we arrive (in 1 day!) I’ll be completely OUT of my comfort zone. Not that living in China was really in my comfort zone. Heck, maybe my entire life is one big out-of-comfort zone experience.
So far I’ve lived and worked in Canada, Switzerland, China, Australia, and soon, Chile. My husband is from Germany, and my daughter was born in Australia. I’ve been on the go for nearly 10 years now, and I’m often asked the question: where is home for you? Where will you make your ‘home’ in the future? Funny thing is that I don’t really know anymore – I cant figure out where I feel the most home. Is home where you’ve spent the most years of your life? Is home where you feel the most comfortable? Is home where your ‘people’ are? Where you speak the language? While I feel very grateful I’ve had the opportunity to move around, sometimes I feel sad that I haven’t really set any roots, and sometimes it’s really, really lonely….
The different places you’ve lived (countries, cities, villages, communities, or various houses!) can really form a big part of who you are. It’s funny, because in Melbourne, you can even take it as far as identifying yourself as a “south of the yarra” type versus a “north of the yarra” (my Melbourne friends will know what I mean). Perhaps you’re a strong Berlin-type rather than a Munich-type? Cities, towns, communities all have their own sub-culture, and you can definitely start to identify with the place you live. Alternatively you can not identify with where you live, despite being there a long long time. Some define themselves by not being part of where they live (you know, those badasses). When plucked out of a place you identify with strongly, you’re like a fish out of water.
For example, I’m from a town called Tweed, (in Ontario, Canada), and I consider that to be my first home – it’s a bit part of my identity. I have roots and so many memories there, and many of the people I love the most in the world are close by. In Tweed, I do feel like I can just ‘be’. I love spending time at the family home, cottage, and hanging out with my family.
Now, parting with Melbourne after 4 years, I feel like I’m deeply mourning the loss of a place that has really become my adult home, another big part of my identity. We were married here, Emily was born here, I have very good friends and colleagues, I like my career, and I love the little community we live in (not to mention the coffee, which I’m pining for as we speak). It’s sad to part with a place you hold so dearly, that helped turn you into who you are (at the moment, at least!).
I guess every place you live gets a special place in your heart – a piece of who you are. Moving on from Melbourne, toward Santiago, I’m both excited and nervous about our new ‘home’ and – yet unknown – piece of my future identity. Watch this space – next time I write it will be from the opposite side of the world. Eek!