On leaving

Less than one month from now, I leave LA.

It’s not possible to write fully about the dozens of incredible people here who have shocked me with their kindness and generosity and who quite frankly I can’t believe aren’t offering to move to the UK. How the hell is life supposed to happen without you guys, seriously? I’ll yearn for your hugs and smiling faces every day. You’d best stay in touch.

I keep playing over in my mind what it will be like breaking through the (inevitable) clouds and seeing the green fields of England spread out beneath that British Airways plane.

Want to hear something stupid?

I’m scared. Really, really scared.

It’s not even that I’ve been away for that long. I haven’t so adapted to LA life that the UK seems like a foreign concept to me. No. This is scary because this will be the first time in a long while that I’ll be coming home without plans to leave again soon.

I recently realised that leaving is what keeps me going.

 

Leaving is hard, but exhilarating. Leaving in itself knows no destination, only newness; its promises are unknown, and therefore infinite and endlessly exciting.

My mind confuses staying with stagnancy, and tricks me into thinking that the pit of depression is on just the other side of stopping still. It needs to learn the value of sticking around, and perhaps one month from now that lesson will begin.

Leaving has been something of a way of life. From the age of seven, when my parents split up, I was constantly leaving one existence and entering another.

My parents would park their cars some distance apart in a supermarket car park. I’d open the car door, grab my rucksack and walk out in the night air over to the other car, entering my other life.

Sometimes it was hard to keep track of my two selves, the ‘me’ of my two families, but it was comforting to know that I’d soon be departing one existence and taking refuge in another, just as things might get tricky; this movement and inevitable departure was constant refreshment and a constant fallback.

What happens when that is taken away?
When I first lived abroad, I used to say ‘Back in the UK….’
When I returned, I’d say ‘Oh, in Paris we used to…’.
Here in LA, I bore people with tales of places I used to know, ‘In Moscow we would go to…  but in Odessa it was more….’
‘What? I thought you were from England.’
‘I am.’
My friends have an incredible grace that keeps them from telling me to shut up. They listen patiently and smile enthusiastically. I love them so very much for this. But the conversation moves on to X Factor, or the latest gossip or something else you haven’t thought about for a long while, and ‘back home’ starts to feel somewhat foreign. As soon as you’re back, you begin to long for the things you loved about your other temporary ‘home’; you find yourself bringing these things up in conversation, not because you want to sound incredibly ‘international’ (daaaarling), but in a desperate attempt to bring them back into your reality somehow.
Home is no longer simply home. Home is many places, and no place, all at the same time.
Let’s go for many places, rather than no place.
Perhaps  ‘home is where the heart is.’ (apparently it was Pliny who said this, according to my google search ‘Home is where the heart is who said this’)
Does this give hope for those who leave?
I’ve left my heart in a few different places. A piece of it lies in Wimbledon Park, still another in Odessa; some of it belongs to our students in China, but a chunk will always lie in the Surrey fields; wherever my parents are, part of it will be too, but Moscow, Paris and LA also have claims to it; another sits in the old village of Alonissos, whilst a sizeable piece is happily lost somewhere in a library in Cambridge.
Calling these places ‘home’ is nothing but a privilege.
And it’s okay.  There have been other travellers on this path.
It is written…
Hebrews 11:13-16 The Message (big fan of this translation)
Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.
So, while here on earth, we will always feel a bit unsettled and out of place.  But someday, we will finally be home again. This is my hope.
For now, there is tea. The ultimate home from home.
What am I saying…. I am totally British.
P.S. If you know me you might know that this is one of my favourite songs of all time https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9ae2EZ18dU  it seems kind of pertinent to what I wrote/have been thinking about and is just a great track all round 🙂
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4 thoughts on “On leaving

  1. Strict definitions of home are evaporating as it becomes easier for everyone to transition from one place to another. For many long-term travelers and immigrants, home connotes a more fluid definition. Good luck with your move back to England!

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  2. “Home is many places, and no place, all at the same time”….. agreed! This entire post is beautifully written. Your words really resonated with me. We spent several years in Ukraine and then wound up back in the American town I grew up in. Big. Readjustment. Anyway, I enjoyed your stories from Moscow and Odessa- there’s something really magical about those two cities!

    How are things going for you now? Any plans to return to Ukraine or Russia (or beyond)?

    Katherine

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    1. Hi Katherine,

      Thank you so much for your kind words!

      So glad you love Moscow and Odessa (Odessa especially will always have a very special place in my heart 🙂

      I was meant to be moving to Hong Kong but as fate would have it have now just started working at a cultural journal about Eastern Europe in London! Hoping to visit Ukraine next year 🙂 How about you?

      Elise x

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      1. Hi Elise!

        Wow, that’s an exciting place to be working! Will the journal be published online? Sounds like something right up my alley 🙂

        I don’t have any big travel plans coming up…. there’s a Central-American-maybe next month, but it’s a big maybe… Honestly, it feels like I’ve pretty much spent the last year moping over leaving Ukraine and I’m just now realizing it’s time to start a new life. Within the next few years I’d like to get back to Ukraine or Russia, even if it’s for a short visit. I hope your trip works out next year and you decide to blog about it here!

        Katherine

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