… The friendships I’ve made with people because we connect over performance, or books, or because we’ve worked on a passion project together, those have been important in a different way. Because they connect with a deeper, stronger part of my identity, one that is a constant, regardless of circumstance. It’s connecting with that sense of myself that makes me feel at home, wherever I am.
That has sometimes felt rebellious – a strong word but yes, rebellious. Because often how I choose to spend my time – whether working for myself, creating a portable career outside of conventional employment, or in a hobby that takes me out of the conventional social sphere of the playground mum, the wife, the company events, the coffee mornings and cookie decorating classes – it surprises people. They’ve forgotten that we have these options. Back in the early days in Pau, and after I arrived in Kampala with a baby and a toddler and all the culture shock of motherhood and family separation on top of the physical move, I would have been taken aback too.
At that point, I did have time to myself thanks to the help we hired, but I spent it studying TEFL, not conceiving of a different way than the track I had been on for years – teacher. I did my best to fit in with ladies’ lunches and being the lady of the house, did my best to be a good expat. Thank goodness there was a poster for a theatre group, a Facebook post, a call for auditions, an email that finally got through and pulled me gently off that track, a track of fitting in, and into somewhere I could feel I belonged.
It feels ridiculous to write that connecting to that deeper sense of self is a rebellion. But the cultural pull we have, especially as women, to fulfill a role in a certain, very visible, way is powerful and compelling. Take that into the world of expat families, where despite all our awareness of gender stereotyping and bias, the traditional gender divide is still prevalent, and the alternative becomes almost invisible at times.But there was a moment in Esbjerg when I knew I had found a sense of home in myself that I would carry with me, wherever we landed.
This is a draft extract from my upcoming book Nest: a memoir of home on the move, originally shared on Instagram as part of the Virtual Campfire community challenge hosted by Wiebke of Chameleon Coaching and Christina of Southbound Stories.
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