This is my response to the #Generations prompt for #MayontheMove2021 (learn more here). It’s raw and unedited, because otherwise it wouldn’t be here at all.
This is not what I thought I was going to share today.
Earlier in the month Jamey of @couragelifecoaching mentioned his ‘cross-generational heart’, which a few of us seized on in the comments. I’ve been thinking about it ever since, so here we go.
When we first left the UK, 12 years ago, I was mostly ready to say goodbye. Leaving my job was easy; family would always be in our lives, wherever we went. I knew the most important friendships would endure. But the biggest wrench was after my final performance with the musical theatre company I was a member of. I’d only rediscovered this passion in my 30s, and it had become a defining feature of my life: an activity which demands wholeheartedness, that community a place of deep belonging, the stage a home. So there was real grief in leaving it behind, in believing that I was leaving behind a part of myself, creating a hole I would carry with me.
Eventually, though, I was able to find that part of myself again. I’ve been able to step out of the bubble of my expat life – by which I mean the one that defines me as spouse and parent, where the expectations of others are entirely based on my circumstances, the one where my friends are mostly (amazing!) women around my age, mostly parents, mostly serial expats, defined by transition and impermanence.
In Uganda, in Congo, and now here, I’ve found theatre again. I’ve been able to break out of that bubble, and get back the missing part of myself. I spend time with people drawn together over a common passion or curiosity that has nothing to do with where they come from, how they live, gender, family circumstances – or age.
I remember a rehearsal in Congo once, a Tuesday evening at the end of a hot, busy day, when I wasn’t sure I would be any use that night for anything more than showing up. As we got started, I watched some of the 20ish-year-old cast members bound across the hall, ready for anything, and thought, ‘I wish I could borrow some of their energy.’ Of course, by the end of the rehearsal that’s exactly what I had, way more energy than I’d started the day with.
That’s always how it goes – every week, rehearsal night is when it takes longer to get to sleep, the buzz just keeps buzzing for hours, the next morning is like an adrenaline hangover.
When I’m with those people, too, there’s an energy – a sense of exhilaration, even – that comes from being able to see myself without the filter of those other expectations. Perhaps there’s something about being with people who are very similar or have similar experiences, that subdues what makes us unique. When the shared experience comes despite differences, we can only be ourselves, our differentness is itself our contribution, the connection is more pure.
Nearly every time we’ve moved since leaving the UK, I’ve been ready for a new adventure, ready to say goodbye. But every time, there’s a special grief at leaving behind that experience, that part of myself, and the people I’ve shared that energy with. This time, the grief runs deeper: our first performance should have been April 4 2020. Covid stole our audience, and the fulfillment of our creative collaboration. In this window we now have between the end of Danish lockdown and the summer, we’re putting together something low-key, that can showcase at least some of the brimming potential we’ve been harnessing.
Crossing generations, crossing cultures, crossing diversity… is this where the purest form of connection truly lies?
Thanks for reading. Comment below and let me know your experience of crossing generations. If you want to keep up to date with future posts and behind-the-scenes insights, click here to join my journey, and receive a preview from my memoir exclusive to your inbox.
And thanks for all the likes, comment, and support here, and on Instagram and Facebook. It costs you nothing, but means everything to me!