20 September 2010

On Entrances, Exits, and Just Passing Through...


Entrance or Exit?
Originally uploaded by Nancy Dunne
Like a lot of my photos, the one for today's post is of a gate and a passageway. I seem to be obsessed with them, and if you check out Coming Out of the Tunnel and It's a Journey, you'll see that there is a reason for this obsession.

When I was a kid (and still today, if I'm honest), I had a big problem with change. Mom tells me that I used to cry during the credits of TV programs because I didn't want them to be over. I can remember anxiety hitting just before the bell rang in school because I was changing classes. I never wanted the change to occur because, I think, I wasn't self confident enough to know that I could handle what was coming next.

What the heck is someone like that doing moving to another country, you might ask? Been asking myself that for the past 17 months, if I'm honest. Everything has been a struggle for me, from the first time I took the bus on my own to the supermarket to the first time I used my debit card and remembered the PIN (those happened in the same trip, coincidentally).

Yeah, I know, this blog is all about sunshine and happiness, isn't it? Watch out, the unicorns in the corner may poke you with their horns as they scamper away from the leprechauns holding balloons.

I was thinking about my photos of entrances/exits as I stopped by random bacon, a blog run by a fellow American expat and friend of mine, Julie. Her post, Somewhere In Between, struck a chord in me, specifically when she said:

Just as I was turning left to take a short-cut through a nearby park, I was suddenly overcome with the feeling of "foreigness". Potentially only other expats can fully understand what I mean by that statement, but basically I was riding along on my bike and this huge swell of emotion came up involuntarily, pushing the thoughts of "I live in a foreign country. This is not my culture. This is England. How did I get here again?" into my mind. It wasn't an unpleasant feeling necessarily, but just a highly intense awareness around the fact that I'm not in my native land. These thoughts were then followed up by mixed feelings of pride, sadness, intrigue and loneliness all at once.

That's it. That's what has been following me like Winnie the Pooh's stormcloud since I got here a year ago in April and for the life of me, I can't shake it. I think that what I'm realising is that I'm not really cut out to LIVE permanently outside of the US, and that's okay. There is no shame in knowing who you are and where you belong...in fact, that's the same thing that settled expats feel, just they feel that they belong here.

So are my photos entrances or exits? Neither. I'm just passing through, on my way home to regroup before I head out to explore again. Only next time I'll take an extra jumper...

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