To anyone who’s ever left the town, city, region or the country where they were born, a question of identity and belonging arises. The reasons for leaving the original place of birth may be diverse. It could be that war broke out, severe famines threatened wellbeing, the temptation of better opportunities elsewhere called out, you got bored and wanted a change or perhaps a nagging feeling that you can’t be satisfied within the limitations of the culture you were born into.
Whatever the reason, the move is always for the better. Otherwise, you wouldn’t move, right? Why commit the immense energy needed to make a huge change in your life? What if you didn’t have a choice in the move? Your parents uprooted you from the culture you knew?
That happened to me.
To make matters worse, my parents moved into a country they didn’t particularly have the warm-fuzzies for. The U.S.
Consequently, I picked up their attitudes and never felt at home living there.
“They start wars for money!”, “The whole country is in the hands of weapon makers”, “Consume or die, that’s their religion” “What a bunch of degenerates!” so why the hell were we here and not back home in Turkey where we belonged?
Wasn’t the answer obvious, my dad would ask. It was all so we could have better opportunities for our future.
Here’s what I learned from that whole experience.
Parents: Never move your children to any place where you, yourself won’t feel at home.
When I moved back to Istanbul in my 20s, I didn’t feel at home there either. I didn’t know why I couldn’t be at home in my own country among my relatives but there it was – an invisible wall I kept bumping into which separated me from the people I grew up with. I thought maybe they felt I’d changed and to be fair, my mum’s side and dad’s side are two tribes that very rarely come together. They are like night and day even though all from the same over-arching Turkish culture.
So I became aware that whilst there’s a culture within a country, families also have their own culture. My dad’s side valued education and duties above all and were intensely concerned – or shall I say obsessed with – the future (or perhaps just dad is) and mum’s side live in the present. They enjoy life and place importance on their outward appearance and cultivating a sense of style.
It was unfortunate that I denied myself what my mum’s side had to offer. Being so far away, and mum not having a voice in the family decisions, I was simply not aware of her side of the family. Things were unbalanced in our household because I didn’t experience mum’s presence.
It’s come as a relief that mum’s now separated from dad and is back home where she grew up, with her family. She’s healing, recovering her voice and has her own home.
Every woman needs her own space.
The Warm Cocoon
My own family, partner and two girls visited Istanbul back in April and man, was it tough to come back to Sydney and make it home again.
Let me explain.
In Istanbul, we were surrounded by the warm cocoon of our family. They greeted us when we arrived from the airport and every day we had grandmother visits, family functions and for someone from a family where its members stopped talking to each other, it was such a relief to have all those people around me, talking to each other, talking to me, playing with our children. I cannot express the joy that brings to one’s heart.
The warm cocoon is so hard to leave. No one who’s experienced it would ever want to leave its comforts.
Are we meant to be living in cocoons?
Maybe like it is for the caterpillar, a cocoon is a temporary place that nourishes us until we emerge from it with our butterfly wings, ready to explore what’s out there.
After three weeks with our Turkish family, we grew wings like the butterfly. Aboard an Emirates flight – business class too I might add – we came back to Sydney, my home for the last eight years. There’s no place like home? No, I wasn’t feeling it. It felt nothing like home. A cold, dark place that we hadn’t lived in for a few weeks. It felt foreign. Lonely. Sad.
I’d also forgotten my laptop at the airport, what with all that child wrangling. I thought I had nowhere to sit down and write.
That’s when I realised it. Home is where I get to write. It’s where I can pour my feelings.
I grabbed a notebook and wrote and with every word I warmed up a little and my tired body started settling in my home.
The Way Back
I’m slowly coming back into my own space and my own life here in Sydney. It becomes more my home the more I write. It also becomes home with the people I meet and the activities we get involved in as a family. Lucy’s now started daycare on Thursdays and Fridays which gives me two full days on which I can write. I am also doing some training to start volunteering as a memoir writer for palliative care patients.
If for whatever reason you stop feeling like you’re home, remember, it’s within you.
It’s not “home is where the heart is” but rather your heart is your home. Find that thing that races your heart, like writing for me, and hang on to it with your dear life. Without it, you’ll always be a stranger to yourself.
For you, what makes you feel home – could be cooking, and cooking is a wonderful way to keep a house warm and its members fed – pottery, painting, gardening, whatever it is, find your way back to it.
Over to you…
What creative activities bring you joy and comfort? Have you carved out time in your week to do your creative work as a priority?