I know this sounds ungrateful or even sad, but since our move 4 weeks ago (time flies!) I realized that what I somehow felt for a long time: I had spent 12 years “in between”.
Here is what I mean with “in between”. It’s when you live in a place or are stuck in a role that doesn’t feel really yours life circumstances make you live in a way that is not really what you would choose for yourself if…. (fill in the blank…) – and you spend months, years, to find out what you can do to feel more “you” and to make things work in a way that you feel “home”, content and connected with yourself.
I think I have finally managed to grasp this feeling that many associate with “home-feeling” and link to a place. I hope I can find the right words for it – bare with me if I switch languages… I have lived in many places and adjusted to all kind of situations. We can adapt to everything, really. But I think we only realize that we have been holding back with something when we don’t have to anymore… For me this moment is today.
My past “in betweens”…
Today I realized that although I have lived 12 years in a place I called “home” and where I have the fondest memories with my children growing up, it was only one of my places “in between”.
I had them before and sometimes I recognized them right at the beginning, like when I moved to a temporary room when I studied in Zurich. I knew it would be only for 3-5 months, that it was going to end soon, I didn’t concentrate on the time spent there. I was continuously thinking about the time before and what would happen next, ie. that I would find a place, reunite with all my belongings and start the new semester – all but a mindful living! – that it had an end.
And there were those months spent in an empty house – the one I spent most of my childhood years in – still fully furbished, hoping that my parents would decide to come back “home” after a year and a half spent in France for work, that it would only be a parentesi nella vita before all would get “back to normal” or (more or less) how it was before. – This would never happen, alas. They would move to, again, another place, sell the house that I so longed to go back home to, and I would never be able to have a place filled with memories for a long time.
And those wonderful 3,5 years spent in Florence, where my son was born, where I got the chance to dive into my research while maintaining my little family. I knew we would only stay for a few years, but there was always the hope to stay longer, maybe forever… Nevertheless, it felt like another parentesi nella vita, because I wasn’t working in academy like before, but was hoping to get back some day… – Funnily, this too didn’t happen…
Sometimes those “in between times” expand, like when I moved to Zurich for study, my intention was to not stay longer than one year. Only that one year ended up becoming 16 years on and off… Or, like when we moved to the Netherlands, and we planned to stay 3-4 years, and now, in 2018, it’s already 13 years that we live here.
The end of an era
Today I realized that in hindsight, the 12 years we lived in that house were another parentesi nella vita. We had lovely neighbors, but for some reason we never hang out with them. We wouldn’t just catch up over a coffee, invite each other spontaneously.
Today I woke up from that 12 years life “on hold”.
We invited our new neighbors for a housewarming party and almost all came! Within 30 minutes our house was filled with smiles, laughter and kind words. Not one awkward second or conversation. They were all so happy to meet us, to get to know us, they were genuinely interested in who we are – believe me, I know the difference between a polite but superficial “oh, where do you come from… interesting…” to the genuinely open questions that seemed not to end that we experienced today. – Since a very long time, I think it’s more than 28 years, I experienced this feeling of being welcome, welcomed, invited to be part of other people’s lives without having to do anything but being me. Without explaining why, when, how long…
We’ve been embraced with true kindness today.
People often say that we need to “live to our full potential” and “do what makes us shine/happy…”, “find out what holds us back…” and “make sure we get what we need”. It’s hard to do all this when you have the intense feeling of not belonging to the life you’re leading or the stage you’re in.
I didn’t realize until today that the place I lived before was affecting my life. I am aware now that I silenced part of myself for a long time. And the interesting thing is that it was the place that had a great part in all this. Maybe it seems odd, but places do this to us.
In every place I lived I had the impression that my whole life changed: my routine, my perception of time: in one place I felt like time would just evaporate, whereas in another it seemed like if I had extra-time. Also the way I felt about myself changed in every place I lived. In some places I had to adapt too much to other people’s routines and habits.
We have lived in neighborhoods where “foreigners” where treated differently, where “people like us” were tolerated, but not really welcome, and places where we felt good and safe, but that “something” was missing. – Today I am very grateful that we have found a safe and comfortable place. And it’s not only a place but a new village that will help us raise our children. Children come over spontaneously to play or hang out with our children. At the end of a long day we sit in front of our house watching the sunset and chat with the neighbors.
Now, for the first time since I have children, I feel we belong, we can integrate easily and my children will thrive. And so will I.
- Have you experienced living in “times in between”?
- How was that, when did you realize that they were “times in between” and how did you “get out of them”?
Categories: Being expat