Sometimes, I wonder where did I leave it all behind.
It’s been a few years now that I’m living this nomadic experience that has become my life. I can’t seem to stay more than a few months in the same place. My time in Ukraine, far from being a short interlude in between a continuous symphony, is actually the longest period of time I will have stayed in the same place for years. In total, during the last 3 years, I have moved 9 times, not including the times I was desperately looking for refuge outside of my own ‘home’.
It started from just a city to another, but the more time passes, the more I increase the distance. It’s not even necessarily a geographic distance. It can be the impossibility to travel to visit and maintain regular contact with your close friends (or, sometimes, who used to be your close friends), being for time, money or any other reason. Because it’s hard to relate to a universe you no longer are in, and sometimes because reminiscences of that universe just hurt you further, so you prefer just avoiding the pitfall. Because so many things you enjoy so much are simply not an option to you: having a cat, wandering around looking for a book that you either would enjoy reading or let age on a shelf…
Sacrifices you make are not necessarily immediately obvious. Time erodes the relations you had with your friends, slowly draining them further away until you notice you barely know each other anymore. At no point can you identify a rupture, as it is a rift slowly nibbling your inner sphere. I have been drifting so far away from what are now the considerations of my friends -salary increases, buying a house and having a child, that sometimes when I meet people that used to be very close to me, we simply have such a hard time to communicate. Most often, we have to go through a phase of creating a pantomime of conversation, making it a double monologue where neither of us really understands what the other is talking about, because we navigate 2 parallel universes, before finally finding a personal middle ground. We are trying somehow to create a buffer zone in which we can try to get closer little by little, like two foxes who would turn around, breathe the air and hope to perceive the familiar fragrance of the other’s personality.
And of course, the people you would relate the most to, alike nomadic people, are also using this very same pattern of superficial exchanges. I feel like wide atoms colliding with each other, sometimes pairing for a few microseconds, only to spin further on.
And every time you leave again, you know this very same mechanism will apply again. To the people, you met and you got close to. To the people, you will meet next. So you start enclosing yourself, barricading the way to others as you don’t want them to get in only to get out with a part of you. You feel like an egocentric animal, avoiding intimacy as much as possible. You can literally perceive the fracture between you and the surrounding in your daily life, and you feel really at home neither in your own city or in your selected country. You have alienated yourself, without any perspective of really returning anymore.
Loneliness is just the one thing you are used to. With a cigarette, of course.
I feel stretched between two extremities, wanting to have my inner place to go back to, and at the same time knowing I still have so much to explore. Feeling more French than ever since I am abroad, and at the same time unable to identify what is my identity as French. I can feel it vanishing, as I integrate the norms of other cultures, becoming a conglomerate of different perceptions. It can become a real struggle to define which part is mine, trying to build an identity out of comparison instead of identification.
Don’t get me wrong: it is also amazing to put into question your cultural norms. But it implies such a
dislocation to define yourself in that cluster of whirling perceptions of society, instead of simply relying on a predetermined common background. It is the dismantlement of your former self, to patch it up with unlikely pieces.
It feels like looking for the exit of a labyrinth, only to realize you lost access to the entrance when you reached it.
cover credits: unsplash.com/Mantas Hesthaven