The Return of the Lost Daughter: Where Is My Home?

Haydon Bridge
I used to live in Haydon Bridge. Photo by Natalie Nera

 

By Natalie Nera

 

I have spent a life time of not belonging so when I became an immigrant in the United Kingdom, it was not a new experience for me. I spent years not fitting in, being different, not by choice but by the nature of my being, feeling lonely and unhappy, misunderstood.

It is not an act of self-pity; it is a statement of a fact. It is also the reason why my teenage years and my twenties were utterly miserable, the time I would not want to go back to. I understand today that I have always lived in exile of some sort, be it an inner exile or becoming one of the life’s nomads without a home. I also used to long for roots, for being accepted for I thought it was important. I believed you could not exist without it.

Jungian scholar Bettina Knapp[1] talks about two different types of exiles. Refugee writers are forced to leave, I never was. All of my exiles have been self-imposed although I could argue that in a way, I did not have much choice. This is who I am. I live in my head, exhausted from the effort of pretending. It is much more natural to be an observer, to watch and remain on the outside.

This week I am on my ‘return’ trip to the place and country that was my home for fifteen years, and these questions seem more relevant, still open-ended like an oozing wound.

Where’s your home, little swallow?
It’s with my husband and my kids.

I wrote these lines some years ago in my early attempts in English but they still hold true. I am home where the people I love are. It is all right not to belong, and it is pointless wasting years of pondering over the fact that you were born weird. Or at least I am. I am all right with it now.

I realise there is more significance to this journey than I originally appreciated. It has been six months since I became an exile in Prague, my home city, after twenty years of being “the foreign woman” in other countries. The collection of friends who were desperate to meet me upon my flying visit involve a German, a Spanish, an American, a New Zealander and about ten born and bred Brits.

Somehow, they all are part of my tribe, and we all belong to each other. My tribe has other people in Bucharest and Krakow, as well as Hong Kong. My friend Natalie Crick, the breathtakingly talented Newcastle poet you know from our blog posts, is a lot younger than me, she is English, yet, whenever we speak, it feels like we grew up together.

When you speak to most creative people, they will probably tell you similar stories of being the ones who do not fit. What I am trying to say is that it is all right to be that way because there are people out there who are just like you. They are your tribe so go and find them.

[1] Bettina Liebowitz. Knapp, Exile and the Writer: Exoteric and Esoteric Experiences: A Jungian Approach (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991)

 

P.S.: I apologise to professional photographers for the quality of the photo, yet it is dear to me. I used to live in Haydon Bridge, a Northumberland village who gave residence to two famous personalities of the creative world – artist John Martin and poet Philip Larkin. I snapped this on my mobile phone on the way from switching on Christmas lights, an annual event on the first Sunday of December, during which community gets together.

 

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A small, independent press based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK, and Prague, the Czech Republic