Feeling restless is an intrinsic part of my identity.
As a TCK who has moved frequently, I’ve experienced and internalised a colourful (and sometimes confusing) mixture of cultures, habits, beliefs, traditions, languages and relationships.
Constant change and diversity seem to be of a somewhat addictive nature, and I have often noticed in myself a deep restlessness and a strong urge to move and experience something new that seems to kick in after around two years of staying in the same place.
By the time I was 12 I’d already moved about a dozen times, but then my family settled more permanently in Germany. After a couple of years it dawned on me that I would essentially have to stay in Germany for several more years until I finished high school.
Not only did that thought fill me with dread, but I couldn’t even truly conceive of it, having never lived anywhere for more than three years at the very most.
I promptly began to think about ‘escape routes’, and ended up going to England for an exchange year at the age of 15. What was meant to be just one year abroad to get some restlessness out of my system turned into a string of adventures in various countries.
Seven years later, I’ve just moved for the eighth time since, this time to Spain, after having lived in the UK, France and Palestine. When people hear my life story they often ask me which country I’d like to settle in eventually. I never really get that question.
I just cannot imagine life without moving frequently, so I usually joke that even if I found paradise, I’d still get bored and restless and would want to move after 2-3 years.
However, as much as I struggle to imagine being settled or even living anywhere more long-term (which I’d define as 3+ years), I’ve recently discovered in myself a strange new desire quietly creeping up alongside the one for adventure and change – a desire for stability and rest.
I’ve just graduated from university and am currently working as an aupair in Spain for a few months; after that I hope to find a job teaching English in the Middle East for a couple of years before maybe doing an MA in goodness-knows-where. My parents and siblings are about to be scattered across three different continents.
So the next few years look unlikely to hold much constancy for me, and I’m surprised to now notice in myself not just excitement, but also exhaustion, at this thought.
After all my experience of moving, I know the joy of engaging with and learning from people with a different culture and worldview to mine – but I also know the frustration of not being able to fully express myself and being misunderstood because of language and cultural barriers.
I know the thrill that comes from exploring new places and experiencing a new way of life – but I also know what it feels like to be lonely and homesick.
And when I say ‘homesick’, what I mean is not a longing for a particular place or particular people, but for a particular feeling – one of rest, of belonging, of being seen and understood for who I really am, and accepted and loved as such.
Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow!