Reflections on Returning Home

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Over the past 15 years I have privately journaled about my experiences of life in South Africa and life in Canada. I have continually returned to my writings with the intention to eventually join several pieces written on different continents over many years. I have consistently felt a strong energy to write about feeling at home in two vastly different countries and cultures separated by 16,400 kilometers of land and ocean.

I am Canadian by birth and being Canadian is what I identify most strongly with. I left Canada in my mid twenties and have spent my ‘growing up’ years living in South Africa. Over the past 14 months my family and I have lived in British Columbia, Canada – the place in which I spent the first 25 years of my life. The ‘longing’ I have felt for a country I’ve been away from has now been replaced by a renewal of the connection to and knowing of where I come from. In essence, the longing has been replaced by more solidity and groundedness in where I can call home.

My reflections are a personal story that I share with my family but the story is one that I share with many others who, for many different reasons, live away from their original country of birth and feel a pull between it and the place they now call home. Let me be super clear – I got to choose this move unlike millions of others who don’t. As I write many families are displaced, many are starting out a new life in foreign countries, and many know they will never return home. I have moved a lot in my life, from a young age, and so I know how the heart tugs, how sights, sounds and smells can take you back to a moment in your home…the way the sun streams in and lands on the stairs in the early hours of the morning…the sound of the kitchen screen door banging closed on a summer day…the taste of strawberries just picked from your garden. We often miss the simplest of things, sometimes the things that make no sense. But then again, it’s those things that shape our days that ground us in the ordinariness of our lives that are quite simply, our humanity.

We left South Africa for a variety of reasons. We longed for a family adventure. I wanted to connect with my Canadian roots and to share this with my family. We wanted to live in one of our favorite places in the world – Whistler, British Columbia. We wanted to experience life, as a family, in a small town. We wanted a change of pace. And largely, we wanted perspective.

I’ve decide to focus this particular piece of writing on the perspective I feel that we have gained over the past 14 months as well as the many, many months leading up to our departure from South Africa.

As so much science about the brain tells us, our brain is capable of forming new and different neural connections throughout our lives. Living in a new and different place has required new ways of thinking, new routines, and new challenges that have required new ways of problem solving, new ways of being, and new responses. All of this has required each of our brains to adapt and change and most likely, to form new neural connections. While we’ve been breathing in fresh mountain air and skiing, biking, running and hiking our brains have also been on a huge workout. For those who know me I’m all in for workouts!

I suspect that there are many gains that we will never see, like these new neural connections, but I’m convinced that they are contributing to how each of us in our family is evolving. I don’t need to see it to believe it. I can feel it in myself and in my family.

Over the past 14 months some things have become very clear to me.

  • It’s important to know when we have enough – enough stuff, enough money, enough experiences….and when it’s time to simply enjoy what we have.

  • Every place offers the opportunity to meet and make new friendships.

  • Change illuminates our strengths and abilities and also our challenges and difficulties – we need both to be fully human.

  • My sense of grounding does not come from routines or items or even physical structures but rather from within myself. Yes, those things do ground me but I can also be grounded by what is within me and that I have with me wherever I go.

  • Time is wasted on gossip, video games, television, and adverts.

  • Raising incredible children can happen anywhere – it’s what happens at home and in your family that matters most.

  • Kids in safe places and spaces flourish with the freedom to explore and experience independence.

  • Joy and creativity is in living where nature is accessible.

  • Time with close female friends is food for my soul and an absolute necessity for my happiness.

  • Each of us adapts to change in a multitude of different ways – there is no guidebook on how it’s done.

  • Home truly is wherever my family and loved ones are.

  • Taking some time out has allowed for some much needed, non-rushed time with my family and friends.

  • My kids have amazed me in how they have adjusted (and not adjusted) to change. Both courage and vulnerability beautifully showed up as they navigated their new surroundings.

  • Sometimes, when I’ve least expected it, I have gotten to know others far better than I ever thought was needed or possible. Change, hardship, vulnerability and honesty allow for this. The challenges of moving asked each of us to share more, to take less in our stride, and to lean in to one another more.

  • Mixing it up has taught us all about resilience, patience, generosity, kindness, appreciation and compassion.

  • Life really does present you with the people you need in your life, the people you can learn from and grow with.

  • Taken from the advice of so many – it really did take at least 6 months to find our feet and it took nearly a year to feel ‘local’ and to start up new patterns, routines, and ways of doing things.

  • It’s been terrific to stop doing the things we routinely did. It has been great to see what I am and who I am without those things. And to then have the choice to return to them or to do things differently.

  • It’s been a journey of letting go of what people think of the choices and changes we’ve made. I don’t need to explain, I only need to know what is true for myself and my family and to stay authentic to that.

  • Longing for home can be replaced by knowing, trusting and feeling solidly grounded in where you come from.

  • Big change isn’t as impossible as many people think.

  • It’s been worth every one of the difficult moments.

  • A big change allows for a fresh start.

  • There is beauty everywhere in ways that are less obvious than what we see in pictures.

  • Never leave before you leave – enjoy every last moment of a place or a person that you love (I’m currently working with this one!)

  • It’s important to go home to feel your roots and from there you can launch and always know where you can return.

  • There really is no place like home but more importantly there is no place like family.

This has been the most extraordinary year for my family and myself. While we all feel much sadness as this ‘Canada Adventure’ comes to an end, we trust that more adventures are to follow. We each take with us the knowing that all that we have experienced, felt and learned is deeply embodied in each of us and that we carry this with us wherever we go.

Family Nature and Life

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