I’ve done this a lot. Moving.
The practicalities of relocating my life around the world hold little fear. It’s draining, of that there is no doubt. Moving with young children is physically trying, and with teenage children mental fatigue takes over as drama supplants drama, but as the end of middle age approaches a kind of ennui has taken over.
I watched our life fold into boxes to be shipped across an ocean when the packers arrived on Tuesday. Memories from around the world embedded in every piece of furniture and painting.
Relocation has always exhilarated me. The chance to try something different, to learn new cultures, new languages and customs. I should be feeling that sense of adventure now. Experience of living in England is sparse.
So, why this sense, not of dread, but lassitude?
Sadness, along with tears, wells because we have had to say goodbye to Stan, the dog who stole our hearts as we worked to steal his after a brutal start to his life. We brought him from St Croix to Houston so he could continue on to England to learn the manners of an English country dog. The vet on island stated he might be a Lab Mix. In our hearts we knew there lurked a smattering of Pitbull – a banned breed in the United Kingdom. Every website warns of the risk of importing a ‘dangerous’ breed dog to their shores. Immediate seizure by customs control, followed by immediate euthanasia. No ifs, no buts. A DNA test proved more than a smattering of Pittie in Stan’s genetic paw print. Staffordshire Terrier, American Bull Dog and Chihuahua – I struggled with that one – all make up the dog we love. Having saved Stan’s life once, we are not prepared to risk it now.
Stan now resides with dear friends who offered him a loving home along with their Pitbull Mix, Nala. We are fortunate to have people like this in our lives but it doesn’t lessen the tears of goodbye. However, Stan will be happy, will be loved, and will be alive.
There is excitement ahead. A grandson, soon to be born, who will be living with his parents half an hour away from our chosen location. Pure joy, and a novelty as I have only ever flown in and out of our granddaughters’ lives. A reminder of my most recent visit to them in Trinidad is on my wrist. A bracelet made from beads reminding me of my name. Precious.
I don’t often go in for introspection. I am more of a get-on-with-it kind of woman, but I have been trying to understand why this move, probably our last international one, is filling me with a suitcase full of anxiety.
To understand, I let my mind wander back to a wonderful woman I met many year ago. Ruth Van Reken, co-founder of Families in Global Transition, and co-author, with David C Pollock, of a book called Third Culture Kids: Growing up Among Worlds. For those unsure of the definition, a third culture kid (TCK) is, “a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK’s life experience, the sense of belonging is in the relationship to others of similar background.”
Here I am, an adult TCK, about to relocate for the umpteenth time, suffering a severe dose of dragging feetitis. It is, I have decided, because I shall henceforth be a ‘hidden immigrant’ – another definition coined by Van Reken. As I settle into English country life I shall look like an Englishwoman, sound like an Englishwoman – most of the time – but have no real knowledge of how to be an Englishwoman. I will no longer be a foreigner, a hat I wear with comfort.
I am not alone. John, too, has qualms. England now is not the England he knew when he left as a young man of 23 but, he reminds me, everywhere we’ve lived we’ve called home. This will be no different. The trick will be to retain the curiosity which has been my companion through so many countries. To remember, as Robert Louis Stevenson said in Travels with a Donkey, that “the great affair is to move, to feel the needs and hitches of life….”
Travel has been a driving factor in our decision to cross the Atlantic – the ease and opportunity to see more of Europe. So, no, we are not hanging up our nomadic boots. I feel the lassitude lessening. We will unpack our life in England, and explore a new place – even if we don’t have to learn a new language.
And I will find my tribe. I always do!