As I write this, I have my planner open to this week (Sept 11-17). On this two-page spread you will already find no less than 6 things already on my to-do list, 3 separate packing lists, 4 social engagements, a dentist appointment, and time blocked off specifically for planning.
(Did I mention my week runs from Sunday to Saturday?)
Those who know me know how much I love being organized – you could even say I’ve got it down to an art form.
Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about how my organization skills and my need to feel well-settled interact with other aspects of my life. More specifically, how my nesting and my need for comfort can seem at odds with my desire to explore, and my colourful passport(s).
Travel is a luxury, and I am fortunate enough to have a family that loves (and can afford) to travel. Growing up in the United Arab Emirates to a family that had members across the globe meant that I was shuttled from my birth country to India, to England, to Bahrain, to Canada, to the United States – all for mini, and sometimes big, family reunions. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve spent more time on planes and in airports than I have on buses.
Because I’ve been in and out of airports for most of my life, I find it easy to fit into the rhythm of air-travel. I wear shoes that are easy to get in and out of. I make sure I have enough time between connecting flights. I pack ear plugs and extra socks in my carry-on. I am alert and aware, but still (relatively) relaxed.
However, there are also times when my family travelled for non-family related reasons. Like the time we went to Thailand, or even when we went to the Netherlands. Both these places have a hold on me because of how vivid and different the landscapes were from anything I was used to in Dubai. Our vacations to these places were also the first few times when I left the country to see another place, not just another family member.
I revelled in that realization at first, and continued to place both experiences on the highest pedestal. Both were worlds so foreign, so exotic to a little brown girl who had lived her life associating new places with old family members. They were like little snowglobes, each containing the gift of a whole world encased in glass wrapping paper. So many new sights, so many new sounds, so many new faces!
But then I grew up, and I began to realize that I didn’t want to look at the snow globes anymore. They were prettily packaged, easily consumable, but, like the good china that never gets used, they were getting dusty on the top shelf.
I wanted my family albums again. I wanted pictures of us in Kelowna, British Columbia, in Patna, India, in Chesterfield, England. I wanted the Kodak photographs that were guarded by the plastic wrapped albums.
I wanted to eat from the Corelle floral-patterned, chipped dishware – not the fancy china.
I wanted plastic instead of glass.
Fast forward to 2016, and I’ve come a long way. Literally.
I’ve moved from Dubai to Toronto, ON to Charleston, SC, spanning 3 countries in 10 years.
And I’m about to live in a fourth.
My first instinct is excitement. My second is terror.
You can guess why I’m excited: new smells, sights, sounds, tastes, feels, experiences, people.
But why am I terrified?
Well: new smells, sights, sounds, tastes, feels, experiences, people.
See, the thing about living anywhere new is that you’re
redefining expanding your whole worldview. When I first moved to Charleston I thought there was no way I could ever remember how to get to my new house. There were far too many turns to take, and all the houses in the neighbourhood looked the same.
That, when coupled with another different culture, sure does pack a nice, shiny-new punch.
I had to get used to American politics, pop culture references, history, portion sizes, food, candy (I don’t care what you say, Canadian Smarties are better than what you call Smarties over here. Fight me.), slang, vocabulary, high school (oh my god
American South Carolina public high school why oh why), and I’m still learning.
[Fun fact: I had my first ever root beer float yesterday. Oh what a day to be alive]
I’m an organizer. I’m a nester. I make things homey, more comfortable. My planner is colour-coded. I make multiple copies of things. I search for assurance that things will go according to plan.
I seek permanence in worlds and spaces that aren’t, and I’m fully aware of the irony.
I know that the only thing that is static is the fact that everything’s dynamic.
The only thing that is static is the fact that everything’s dynamic.
But I can’t help myself. I crave comfort and familiarity, while still chasing the unknown. I decorate walls with postcards, I collect rings from new places, and I visit used bookstores and local ice cream parlours everywhere I go. These are all rituals and patterns that ensure that I meet my need for familiarity, even while meeting my need for new experiences.
I can fly. I can nest. I can do both.
My ever growing life story has a new chapter with each place I live, and each chapter has within it multiple threads that tie together my path with the paths of other people. The fibers of these threads might discolour with weather and wear, but they do not fray.
They are strengthened with each picture, shared recipe, Facebook request, sent letter, and learnt lesson. These threads are wound around beads of clarity that come from moments – whether it’s catching my breath at the top of an American lighthouse, or seeing bear cubs frolicking on the side of a Canadian highway, or staring in awe at fields of blooming tulips in the Dutch countryside, or admiring the way the light dances on the snowbank of an English garden.
I weave a web of familarity as I make my way through cobblestone roads, through ancient archways, on frosted paths, on golden sands – all while remembering people in the context of their respective places. And when the time comes for me to cover myself up in the work from my life’s loom, I can rest easy knowing that I chose both my ability to seek and create familiarity, and my desire to surprise my senses with new experiences and open myself up to new loved ones.
My life is one of nests and wings.
Listening Suggestion: Home of the Strange by Young the Giant
Why? Besides its driving drum beat and Sameer Gadhia’s killer vocals, it captures perfectly the strange land that first gen. American immigrants encounter. Also YtG is a band that has a colourful cultural history with each band member having their own unique voice. They embody what it means to live in a nation of immigrants.
Reading Suggestion: Hector and the Search for Happiness by François Lelord
Why? (I promise I didn’t pick this one because I’m moving to France in a week!) Hector is a psychiatrist who travels around the world looking for the ultimate source of people’s happiness. I think that this book does a good job of finding out what we all have in common, no matter where we are. And, as I like to say, we all smile in the same language. 🙂