I popped back to the suburb we used to live in up until a couple of years ago, last Monday, to catch up with a friend. Whenever I go back there, (and it’s often, as most of our close friends still live there), I experience those same feelings of self-doubt that I feel when I return to the UK. Those soul-destroying questions of ‘did I make the right decision to move?’ or ‘would things be different if I’d stayed?’ continue to haunt me.
Anxiety at its finest.
There’s no doubt that the older you get, and the older your parents get, the more you question your decision to move away from your history and the family hearth.
People always ask us if we believe we’ve made the right decision each time we’ve moved. I think they put us on the spot because they need their own justification for staying put; to make sure they’re not missing out. We all try to paint the best picture of our lives, and I don’t think that habit has anything to do with Facebook one-upmanship, but rather the need to reassure ourselves by constant re-evaluation. The ex-pat’s worst nightmare is that question of ‘and where is home for you now?’, because it hits a raw nerve that is difficult to explain, but one that you can guarantee will cruelly transport you back to the best memories of the places you’ve left behind.
But the reality – and one which people with defiantly long roots will never admit to – is that ‘home’ has nothing really to do with where you grew up. You create your ‘home’, whether that’s with family or close friends. It’s a cliché, but it really is ‘where the heart is’, and nothing to do with which was the nicest suburb or the best bunch of friends – because I can assure you, there are great people everywhere.
‘Home’ to me is about where my immediate family is, but in terms of location, that place could be anywhere on the map that provides me with the energy I need at a particular time of my life. Not that I’ve ever been, or ever will be one of those nomadic traveller types that can fill my back pack and leave on a whim – not when I have anxiety, children, a dog, a husband that accepts being the object of my online ridicule and my unadulterated passion for Marmite.
I meet lots of ex-pats in my day job, who worry about the effect moving constantly around the world will have on their kids in the future, and it’s something I’ve often worried about in relation to my own offspring. Some of my friends were once kids of ex-pats and while many of them have inherited their parents’ itchy feet, others will never move and do everything in their power to instil a sense of security they never felt as a child. I like to kid myself that our itchy feet have made our two more confident and independent adults, having forced them to constantly re-adapt, but with two naturally introverted kids (according to Myer Briggs), I might be kidding myself.
What for one person can seem like an exciting challenge, for the next is a trial.
They are old enough now to make their own decisions about where they decide to live, but if ever they had said to me, ‘we don’t want to move again’, I like to believe that I would have put my own aspirations aside; because without them, there is no ‘home’.
What do you think? Is it a good idea to constantly stretch and challenge yourself by setting new goals, experiencing new things, travelling beyond your comfort zone, or does it give you a greater sense of belonging and security to stay put, create more solid foundations and grow deeper roots?