Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Belgian born but not bred

I've always considered myself a bit of a wanderer.

I was born in Belgium, in a city called Aalst, and for the first year of my life I lived in the bucolic province of East Flanders. Since then I have moved 7 times, lived in 5 countries over 4 continents.
Over my 23 years of travelling the world I have never found a place where I truly belong, no one location where I feel rooted or at home. As a teenager this gave me a sense of pride. At an age where everyone desires to be unique, I had staked my claim to singularity through my travels.
However, as I entered university life and especially post-graduate studies I began to miss the sense of stability that a home could provide.

I often describe my PhD candidature as a kind of limbo. In a sense my thesis is my job. As I am on a scholarship and working within the limitations of a student visa, I am getting paid to research and write on a topic of academic interest. But, at the same time my graduate student experience is removed from much of the experience of those who have left academia and have full time jobs and families. I have yet to figure out what I'll be doing after thesis work, where I'll be doing it, whether I will be living independently, with family, a partner, or a friend. Add to that the common feeling graduate students have of being unworthy of their specialist status. I personally often feel like I am just an imposter, muddling my way through while others achieve greatness in their fields. I am constantly afraid of being found out. As if one day security would come into my office and escort me out, as the administration realised that my acceptance had been a fluke. These thoughts can leave you feeling unsettled and weak. For me this manifests in a kind of homesickness. Only I can't seem to pinpoint the location of the home I seem to be missing. My nostalgia seems to be focused on the experiences others describe to me, rather than any personal memories of a familiar home territory. This realisation often leaves me feeling lost, alone and quite hopeless.
Luckily these episodes never last too long and I always manage to get by with a caring word from a friend or relative. During one of my more recent bouts of sadness, a good friend sent me a link about being a 3rd Culture Kid. Now as I stated above, I always thought of my experiences as unique, separating me from the rest of the world. At the time it helped me justify my cynicism and general teenage angst. However, at the age of 21, hearing that my feelings of marginality and disassociation were a common occurrence was an immense relief. Turns out I wasn't doomed to wander alone, there was an entire host of people engages in parallel wanderings across the world.

So though I may not have a specific place to call home, I have loved ones and memories scattered all over the globe, and my home, along with my heart is scattered among them.

No comments:

Post a Comment