20 September 2012


Lately, it seems I've been obsessed with a topic that, strangely enough, is very hard for me to write about: the notion of homelands, mine in particular. Like the most basic version of a crazed Odysseus, after having been swept away from home by the hand of fate [academic convenience], I've started holding on to this ideal of the homeland, tentatively at first, then with increasing fury and obstinacy, as though my previous lack of inquiry into the concept of a native land was obviously the source of all my discomfort and awkwardness on my way through life and the world, as though the act of returning to a homeland, emotionally and intellectually at first, then possibly someday physically, would bear as fruits the precious answers and keys to questions and locks that have plagued me along with portions of humanity in its existential quests since the dawn of things. [If you were wondering, I consider the current step of the process (or obsession) to be the one dealing with the emotional or intellectual side of re-approaching and re-investigating the homeland, as well as the myth thereof.]

However, every time I embark [odyssean jokes, fuck yeah] on an attempt at writing about my own country, I have to realize that I am hitting a wall. A wall spray tagged with the following revelation: I know very little about my homeland. Though it might have contributed to it, this is not due simply to the fact that I haven't lived in it for over 6 years; looking back, it doesn't feel like I exhausted the [then more defined] limits of what is available in this country in terms of entertainment, culture, and, well, debauchery [I was a good teenager, mostly] before I left. So now, whenever I return, with this image of "how things used to be (but most likely never really were)", it is as though I've regained consciousness after a long sojourn in slumberland, or any other place filled with fog. I recognise things visually, I know where to go, which route to take, I remember street names [the few I ever bothered to learn], I'm even more or less informed as to what a handful of individuals who may or may not have frequented my old high school are now up to. Yet it feels like I can never be fully sure whether I am actually in the right country, the same country I left  a few years ago with the certainty I was ready to put an end to our relationship, I can't tell if I'm speaking the right language, making the right gestures, if I want the right things. The thing I was not expecting, no matter how facepalmingly inevitable it was, was that things would continue to change, to evolve, after I was gone.
Causing me to skip a few stages of grief, this realisation is [proverbial firecracker that I am...] immediately met with outrage: What?! How dare the fluffy womb-cocoon I left all these years ago to find myself [in the arms of a pretty drastically shape-shifting Calypso] and collect a few degrees along the way continue to evolve without me? How did it not fall into a hibernating slumber to unthaw in pristine condition only at my return, and present me with a scene and atmosphere unchanged, still fully familiar and accommodating, instead of being littered with question marks? If I were indeed the crazed Odysseus figure I claimed to be just moments ago, I would have swiftly murdered and impaled all those new suitors lined up to claim the hand of my mourning bride, but I'm not a fan of bloodstains, even less partial to prison cells [the olden days of slaughtering for dignity are over, plus I'm remarkably claustrophobic as a person], and, if "bride" is even an appropriate image in this context, this "bride" is one I share with +/- 500.000 other people anyway, if my airline's inflight magazine's sources are anything to be trusted.

So how do I write about something I've been divorced from [again with the marital analogies] for so many years that I find myself almost alienated from its general socio-cultural climate whenever I return to what I still believe to be my roots? An what do I write about when there is nothing, of the things that occur in this country, that I can review without there being someone else more immersed in it who could review it much better? How can I make remarks and claims about my home country that are somehow socio-culturally relevant when all I sense here, all that's still evident to me, is the country's atmosphere, and such things are desperately subjective and personal?
On the other hand, if I throw in the towel and step away from my claim to a place where I belong and thus give up the notion of this country as my homeland, then what do I have instead? There's always the grand tradition of purely nominal emigration to an honorary step-homeland – electing their substitute nationality of choice is something a lot of my peers are notoriously good at. 2.500 square kilometers are just not enough to hold all of us, especially with those whose life-dreams taking up the kind of space only a larger country can comfortably provide, and still, for those who choose to stay within the clog-shaped borders of this country, our ambitions only fit if we can compress them to an innocuous size, or float them above our heads on a string.
But then again, this could just be the impression I had when the air was getting thick and I was happy to leave. Maybe now, things are different, and opportunities grow plushly, and the increasing number of those who seize them thrive in this new environment that has sprung up overnight, if "overnight" can be used to refer to a time bracket of half a dozen years. Maybe that's what things are like; to my nowadays pretty untrained eye this is what it seems like. Then again, the opportunities given to others often seem more notable than one's own because... just because. Look up "facebook", the bible of feeling like everybody else has a life except you. Anyway, tangents, tangents are bad. Where was I?
For me, there doesn't seem to be the option of letting go of something that has embedded itself in my daily trains of thought as much as this homeland idea – uprooting this obsessional notion would not do much good; if anything, it would contribute to my mind [and the personality attached to it] floating around even more in want of an anchor or a set of landmarks than is already the case. Not a viable option, then. A less drastic method would involve gently channeling this obsession into a few different areas, one of them being verbal creations, in the form of, gee, I don't know, articles or fiction about whatever it is that bugs me about "belonging" and my lack of confirmation in that department. Another area the energy otherwise wasted in unhealthy obsession [as opposed to so-called healthy i.e. productive obsession] could be conducted into is working at finding a sense of fulfilment in this [seemingly inevitable] state of "homelessness" I find myself in these days – when small birds, too young to fly off on their own, fall out of the nest, or, worse, are removed by alien hands, they no longer quite fit in with the rules and regulations of the nest the sat in in perfect contentment only a few moments ago. I suppose this is the tacky analogy to attach to the feeling I'm trying to explain here: an attachment to the limbo of a conceptual no-man's-land, in my case, is the thing I need to become conscious of, not as a tragic balancing act that will inevitably end in a vertiginous inner fall, but as a freedom that allows me to find my attachments elsewhere, in an area that has nothing whatsoever to do with geography. The fact that I don't quite feel comfortable or entitled to feeling at home anywhere doesn't help, but certainly adds to the amount of energy that will be devoted to this particular internal adjustment.
Meanwhile, this distance might enlighten me as to whether there is anything of note I can formulate about the one country I should have a certain insight into, or whether this task is better left to other people who actually bother with the country's political and historic intricacies. Perhaps the geographical, purely physical distance I opted for a few years ago was not the right kind of distance; it was more of a rebellious, contemptuous attempt at ignoring everything I'd dwelled in from my birth up until that time, something pretty common in the ready-for-college age group I guess. The distance I need might be one that is focussed, not on comparing whatever place I live in right now to an idealised and [time-]warped version of my childhood and teenage impressions of "home" and thus tearing my current habitat down, but on adapting, if only in parts, to where I live, and adding to my collection of experiences and personality traits whatever the chemistry between that place and me happens to conjure up.

If you take Ulysses' word for it, being sedentary is totally overrated anyway, and adds nothing to the feeling of being "homebound"; if anything, the yearning for the native land, falls under the category of those feelings whose satisfaction is fleeting, and as soon as you've taken in what you missed, the restlessness kicks in again and it's time to set off for another arrangement of loops around the Mediterranean Seas for a while. In terms of animal analogies, I suppose a bird's eye view of the nest, as you're spiralling high above it in the air, is more fitting, and perhaps seeing it all from a certain distance makes it all so much more bearable [because so much less real. We all love our phantasy]. Or, perhaps, the frog's way with a recurring return to where ever it was you came out of your egg [added to this is the benefit of the following analogical extension: upon your return, the pond will seem much smaller than it did when you were a tadpole. You will also have a set of nice, muscular legs to go with your new, demandingly itinerant lifestyle. Just saying.] It seems that, rather than making camp somewhere with permanence in mind, the lifestyle that comes with this particular limbo is cyclical in its nature. Cyclical. You'd think, what with my gender and all, I would have figured this out sooner.


  1. Hey. It´s slightly more than 2.500 sqkm, only... the wishful thinking we have! ;)
    (It was never harder to break up with a zero!)


    1. Woops, so it is. My bad, thank you for rectifying that. Geography and I were never that tight :)