I moved to Melbourne 11 years ago. In that time I married Mr G, survived leukaemia, gave birth to 2 children, and tried most resolutely to make a home for myself. It looks nice. The people are nice. There’s some good things about it. It looks deceptively like home. But after all these years, it’s still doesn’t feel like home.
Before this I was in Sydney, and before that the Philippines, and before that Adelaide, and before that Indonesia. I’ve managed to overstay my welcome in Ireland for awhile too. Fragments of my soul scattered in every one of those locations.
The end result of living the nomadic life? Home is indefinable. There is no decisive location, no clear cut formula. If home is something formed in childhood, then maybe it’s a town in East Java. But it’s not. If home is a relationship you have with your family, then it would be as simple as living near them. But it’s not that either.
So I’m left with an indefinable longing for something that isn’t there. The Portuguese have a fine word for it, ‘saudade’. There is no English equivalent, but it describes a kind of homesickness for a time or a place that doesn’t exist. A longing for what is left behind.
And it seems I’ve grown into an adult with a shocking case of saudade. I’m not sure I’d recommend bringing up one’s kids in a nomadic fashion across several different cultures. People have long said ‘but what rich and broad experiences you had’… and yes, yes that’s true. But some days I wonder if the price was fair.
It may make no sense at all to the average person who has lived in one place or one culture all their lives. Surely its just a matter of getting over myself and being POSITIVE, right?! I wish it was as simple as that. I wish I could wish away my longing for home.
Here’s my best theory: Home is defined by a delicate mix of history, relationships and geographical familiarity. Finding the small area on the pie chart where all these circles intersect? That’s the sweet spot.
A month ago I went to South Australia for my grandma’s funeral. I was struck by a deep sense of history as I roamed the seaside town she lived in – and even in the big city nearby. These places were where my parents grew up, where I visited so many times as a child. I could feel it in my blood. Heritage, family, familiarity. And even though my parents and sisters don’t live there, I felt a part of me belonged.
When I returned to Melbourne, the opposite hit me. My lack of roots, deep-grounding roots. And when you don’t have roots, you ache. In the middle of late night argument with Mr G (because I’ve been aching a lot), I found myself saying “It’s time take me home. Please take me home!”
So I’ve been looking for home again. The last few weeks have been full of searching. We’re waiting for the right opportunity to surface. I think it’s getting nearer. And the location? Several are on the list. But my gut has narrowed down where I think it will be.
And what if we get there and I still don’t feel at home? Well, I think I’d feel worse in not trying. And I have to try. Because as terrifying as any change is, the thought of things staying the same is even more terrifying.