How you can find yourself again in a foreign land…
As I was cycling in the streets of Oxford on a beautiful and sunny Sunday, admiring the magnificence of the colleges, a familiar feeling pervaded me: this feeling of “lost and found” that so often happens when you are not living in a familiar place.
As an immigrant in a foreign country, you often have this utterly disagreeable impression that you are lost and have lost your friends, family and familiar references. Of course this impression is heightened by certain particular circumstances – This would be a euphemism to say that the current United Kingdom is not particularly welcoming to foreigners.
When you have to abide by incomprehensible rules and expectations and when you do not understand why people laugh at ridiculous jokes, you feel lost. When you feel crushed by absurd and alien governmental regulations, you feel lost. When you eat a stuffed turkey, chutney or the greasy ‘fish and chips’ or when a sales assistant gives you a ‘thank you, love’ just because you have paid for your items, you feel lost.
When your heart is gloomy, but you are unable to connect to your friends “back home” , when you are overwhelmed by joy but have no meaningful contacts to share it with, you feel lost; when you hear about the happy and sad moments of your remote friends and relatives but cannot jump on a eurostar to talk to them or hug them, you feel so lost.
Does falling in love make the strangeness of the foreign land subside? Love does make us happy, a lot of the time. But it can also increase alienation when it occurs on unfamiliar grounds. It sometimes lead to oblivion of the self rather than to self-recognition. Love is a complex place, where we do not only discover who we are but where we can also get lost. In passionate love, in particular, the risk is to lose ourselves and to even just lose, full stop. This, of course, specifically applies to women, whose tendency to satisfy their ego and identity often disappears behind the tendency to satisfy the needs of others.
But, somehow, that feeling of finding yourself will happen again – all the more mesmerizing that it usually appears after the opposite sensation: someone says or does just the right thing at the right time or you engage in your favourite activities and that inner feeling of self-recognition arises. Of course, some of the people you would like to share your joy with are not present or reachable, but still: you have found yourself again.
This is the moment you realise that “home” is more a feeling than a territory: it is not about clinging to new friends, a new family or a new job, but about learning to always find yourself again after feeling lost. This might require exceptional strength of character. Yet, who but exceptional beings decide to relinquish the safe comfort of their first homes to live in a foreign country?
So, even in the country of the Brexit, let us embrace, now and again, that unique feeling of “lost and found”. And let us keep the hope that, one day, we will settle in a home that not only makes us feel safe but that also brings us that powerful feeling that we have found who we are and who we want to be.
Dr in Politics, Author and consultant
Latest Book: “For a sovereign Europe”, Peter Lang, Oxford, 2019 (https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/9781789974584?gC=5a105e8b&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIhKDBvtSX5wIVS7TtCh3mpgRYEAQYASABEgIFhPD_BwE)