[Disclaimer: This piece was written just over a month into Ailsa’s move from the U.K. to the USA. It is a peek into the emotions of someone mid move. You could call it a bit raw.]
Before moving country I did not anticipate the speed that I would feel disconnected from my home. I lived in Edinburgh for 11 years, for goodness sake. I have done all my adulting in Edinburgh; signing my first lease, paying all my bills, getting married, and giving birth...twice. It is a remarkable city combining historic architecture and sublime views, under quite a lot of dirt and social problems. It was my home. But ‘was’ is an important word there.
I feel adrift from Edinburgh but I also look on at New York like I am seeing it for the first time. I feel no responsibility for it. It doesn’t quite feel like it is mine to own, love, and criticise. I have to be extra nice to it, careful, and considerate like a new person I have just been introduced to at a dinner party. Not like my old friend Edinburgh who I would call dirty, aloof, and enchanting. But now I have the odd perspective of an outsider and observer of both cities. Neither is my home right now. I am left in the ‘inbetween’. I am rootless. I don’t belong anywhere. I am connected to nothing here apart from my husband and children.
But, the real shocker? I find the ‘inbetween’ quite comfortable. It is easier to be a bit indifferent to everything and just float about observing, taking, and using without really investing. Last week, we moved into an apartment with our names on the lease. So as you do the husband trooped to Ikea and dropped a substantial amount of money on flat pack furniture and too many plants. It took me a few days and some more money haemorrhaging to realise that part of my brain was quietly freaking out (I am slow on the uptake). Subconsciously, I was worried we had burdened ourselves with so much stuff that we could not easily move again. I realised my mind had been repeating again and again for a few days, ‘How will we move? How will we move? How will we move?’ It was my quiet theme song to our home furnishing shopping. I have even started having stress dreams about packing up and moving country. The irony being I never had this dream before we actually moved country.
Now, don’t get me wrong we love our apartment. We have no plans to move again soon. In fact the husband regularly talks about how we can accommodate both our children in it as teenagers (bearing in mind here that our eldest is 2). But it turns out part of my mind was happy to live agile and unattached. Rootless. Carefree. Unburdened. Ready at any moment to sprint away without any burdensome items of Scandinavian furniture or a single care in the world.
And while that might be admirable when it comes to not having too much stuff, it is a problem if I am applying this rootlessness to relationships and community.
It is a problem if I am happy to just exist here caring only about the small family unit I chose and birthed.
It is a problem if I live here like I could be living anywhere just taking from the city.
It is a problem if I purposely don’t take responsibility for the injustice in my city, don’t engage with and love the people I live beside, or don’t see myself as partly to blame when my community has problems.
My natural mode is to stay in the ‘inbetween’ because that is where you can stay free of hurt. If you do not care or engage you cannot get angry, or sad, or blamed.
But I did not move country to stay rootless. So here comes the next stage of my move. I have done the packing. I have done the unpacking. Now comes the emotionally vulnerable bit. It is time to get out of the comfortable ‘inbetween’. Wish me luck.