The last month or so has taken me to some weird places mentally and emotionally. As previously mentioned here and here, we put our house on the market having no idea where we would move to, but knowing that where we currently live isn't right for us. We have spent weekends visiting Devon, the Isle of Wight, Hamble and Lymington. We've gone to see 12 houses. I have spent a ridiculous number of hours looking at houses on the internet, researching schools, lifestyle, sailing clubs and commuting distances for just about everywhere in the south of England.
And here's the thing. What we want doesn't exist in the UK. And so now the US is seriously being considered.
But it has made me think deeply about what makes a place home, when your own roots have been pulled up with an industrial size digger. My husband comes from a town in the UK that he has no desire to return to (and I share this sentiment entirely). I'm from South Africa and we will never move back there. It means we are rootless. The world is our oyster. We can put down roots anywhere. How liberating. Yet how bewildering. Scary. Lonely. Directionless.
Marrying a Brit and moving here meant I had to go through the strange experience of losing my national identity. I realised very early on that to fit in I'd have to become British. I picked up a Britsh accent (although I still have an SA twang). I took the British-ness test and swapped my green passport for a pink one, no dual-nationality for me. I retook my driver's license and learnt a new Highway Code, including learning how to navigate roundabouts (or traffic circles as I used to call them). I've learnt all about the British schooling system, health system, tax system, government, media, everything. There are still times I know that I'm not British - like when someone famous dies and the whole country goes into mourning and I've never heard of them.
But it's happened. I've become British. I now support the English rugby teams over South Africa. Traitor I hear the South Africans hiss. But it's true. In my heart, when England plays SA, I'm rooting for the white shirts with the red rose on it.
And now, having embraced this new culture, with tiny shoots starting to dig into soil, we're suggesting that we rip up the seedling and plant it in foreign soil. I'm pretty hardy, so reckon I'll manage to adapt and grow. But what will I be then? American? British? What? How many times can you change nationality before you lose all sense of yourself? What about my children? I think of them as little English boys. And I love that. But if we went there, they'd become American. Not British like their dad. Or South African like their mum. But American. Something neither of us is. Are we happy with that?
Ultimately I want to find a place to put down roots and let them grow and grow so that our children and their children will have the pull of a place they call home. But choosing the right place is so incredibly hard when you have absolutely no history there. It's quite simply pot luck. And it's not just my life or my husband's life that is affected by this. We are choosing our children's future. That's pretty huge. And I thought choosing their names was difficult.