Wednesday, 15 July 2009

There's No Place Like...

I've come to the conclusion that I'm more of a homebody than I ever imagined. When I went away to university, when I officially moved out of the family home for good, and again when I emigrated, I allowed myself to believe that I was slightly more exciting - that I wasn't bound by piffling concepts like "feeling settled". But the gig's up. I don't need to know where I'm going to be in five years but I need to know where I'm going to be living in August - right now I don't, and suspect that's why I can't write. And when I'm not writing, I'm hideous.

On the same theme but slightly bigger picture, the trouble is I'm not convinced I can ever truly feel 'at home' in Australia. As much as I love it, as much as Melbourne itself feels like somewhere I could be really happy, being here feels like being away. Even after more than a year, it doesn't even feel real. It's got the allure of adventure, and of learning new things, and of being an alien (for all I moan about that side of things, and for all the other Poms in this place). But it's not home.

We've been given the heave-ho on the lovely house we've been renting since we emigrated (and not because The Australian has singed one wall with the bbq - they don't know about that yet - but because they're selling it). This house is in a very nice neighbourhood, with very nice schools and very nice neighbours. It's... very nice. And what have I decided? We should leave the area completely. Jack this place in. Start again somewhere else in the city. Meet new mums. Make the children say goodbye to the friends they love. Wipe out all of my useful local knowledge (fortunately that's not much, as happens when you walk around with your head in the clouds).

It sounds selfish when I put it like that. Maybe it is. Maybe the children will hate me for a little while. Maybe the neighbours won't be as nice elsewhere. Maybe the new place (mythical right now - we might be on a park bench if we don't find somewhere soon) won't be a better fit.

Maybe you simply have to stay still a bit longer for a place to feel like home.

Gawd, it's all a bit sombre in here. Let me lighten the mood with a writers' joke:

A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell.

She decided to check out each place first. As the writer descended into the fiery pits, she saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes.

"Oh my," said the writer. "Let me see heaven now."

A few moments later, as she ascended into heaven, she saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.

"Wait a minute," said the writer. "This is just as bad as hell!"

"Oh no, it's not," replied an unseen voice. "Here, your work gets published."

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Fionnuala Kearney said...

Oh Emily, I feel for you. Hope you find a house soon and that it helps you feel more settled. It took me a LONG time to feel settled in the UK but 20 years on, I now am and never refer to Ireland as home any more. Hubby says home is where the mortgage is - currently Camberley Surrey!
That joke made me giggle. I may have to nick it?! xx

Caroline said...

I think you're right to keep searching - (and I hope I'm about to say the right thing!).

It's taken me 13 years to feel like I've found the place that feels like 'home'. A few years back, I read a German children's book about a little tigerduck and there was a creature in it who was searching for somewhere to be his home. I think he decided that it'd be Alaska and so he set off following the signs. Then the signs fell down and he ended up being led back to his original home, but it felt different and suddenly 'home-like'.

Of course, I may have made up that story and added my own bits to make it fit with what I've needed in my life, but what I guess I'm trying to say is that you'll feel 'at home' when it's right to feel 'at home' and that feeling can't ever be forced. Maybe you've just got to have your adventures first.

Don't be too hard on yourself in the meantime and enjoy your search. It's a positive need and not at all negative.


Emily Gale said...

Fi and Caroline, thanks very much for your thoughts. A somewhat surprising outcome will appear on the blog shortly...

E. x

p.s. I want to find that German children's book, C!

CarolineG said...

Ha ha! Fantastic joke!