Heimat…in-between worlds

The German word ‘heimat’ suggests a place of deep belonging and certainty, where, as Wiebke of Chameleon Coaching puts it, ‘your roots are the deepest’.

In one sense, I have a very strong, uncomplicated sense of a physical home in Scotland. MT and I are both from there, our families are there, and one of our children was born there. I had a life and career there before I met MT, before I had any conception of what international living and serial transition would entail.

There’s belonging and certainty in knowing our family shares one passport country, a place where daily life isn’t baffling, and where our understanding of the culture is innate. Even if our kids’ paths go elsewhere, they will always have their Scottishness as a starting point.

View across the Firth of Clyde from Gourock: nearly-cloudless skies above the hills and the river, with roofs and trees in hte foreground.

This view is my starting point. It’s visible from the front window of the house where I grew up – where my parents still live. As a teen I would walk to the end of the road and stand right here, mentally composing angsty poetry (seriously) and trying to understand what the world was telling me. This was the place where I decided that since I had no artistic talent to visually recreate the shifting landscape of the Firth of Clyde, I would recreate the world in words. It took me a while to take that decision seriously, but here I am.

I still have roots there – though they’re not so deep now. I’ve pulled them up, drawn from them, to put roots down in more places.

And whether it’s in this town, or our base of Aberdeen, or Scotland and the UK in general, there are definitely aspects of ‘home’ that no longer feel familiar and certain; there are changing aspects of me that will dilute the sense of belonging I’ll feel when I do return.

I’ve learned to feel comfortable with short-term planning, with questions of where-to next, with intense new friendships, with change, blank slates, and unknown new adventures.

So in that sense, there’s belonging and certainty in the uncertain too, and I know I’ll always feel at home in the third-culture space, in the in-between worlds.

This post was inspired by the #arrivinghome2020 challenge on Instagram, hosted by @chameleon_coaching and @southboundstories.

I’ve written more about feeling at home in uncertainty here, and you can read my 10 big lessons from 10 years of expat life here.

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