Being at home is hard sometimes because it forces me to confront reasons I left home in the first place. Some days in Toronto, those reasons seem to fade, their content diminished by time and distance. But being back at home renders them more strongly one thing or the other, real or not.
Much as leaving a place is entirely personal, entirely subjective and a decision I make only for myself, it's still a kind of rejection. I put my own decision under a continuous spotlight, taking my pulse the entire time I'm here. Wondering if what I'm seeing is what's real, if I'm overreacting, if it would be different if I were a better person, if I have some elaborate need to be different.
Those differences are, of course, now both internal and external. I have a Canadian accent. I wear too much black and not enough fuchsia for an Irish woman. It's interesting how the material things compound the differences. With all our globalization, even with the fact that Grafton Street looks now like Bloor Street, there's still a different look. Where Canadians are conservative, Dubliners can be colourful, even brash. I take the pulse of all of that too. I walk into shops and look for the rack with the neutral colours. It's not there. I'd have to change to fit in here now.
And I think about the role all of this plays in the Canadian self I've created. Is it Canadian or is it just me? The thing that I loved about emigration was the chance to start fresh, to create a brand new moment. To be in a culture without any background and to decide what to make mine... nothing was inherited. It may sound Gatsby-esque but isn't that the fantasy? The self-made woman? And yet, sometimes I look for those anchors and connections that I cast off so readily.
I read this piece this week. I'm interested in the role materialism played in my newly constructed life. How much of that dream is rooted in stuff (and how much of my blogging expresses that connection). In having a home decorated differently than the homes at home. In having different clothes, cars and beauty products.
"Consumerism, with its idealization of idiosyncratic personal taste as a marker of self-actualization, demanded an atomized self bent on escaping the “trap” of social influence. Its rewards — rooted in being able to measure the distance you’ve come from your origins — are premised on the goal of achieving a unique identity purged of debts to the taste of others; only then is the self existentially free, truly self-created." TNI
When I come home, it's often those material differences I most readily perceive. And I at once see more people who are very much like me (bone construction, eye colour, body type) and also people who are entirely unlike the constructed me. And sure it's about stuff, but it's also about expression, identity and belonging.
I also started to read Colum McCann's new book TransAtlantic this week. This jumped out:
"... Alcock and Brown took one look at each other and it was immediately understood that they both needed a clean slate. The obliteration of memory. The creation of a new moment, raw, dynamic, warless. It was as if they wanted to take their older bodies and put their younger hearts inside." p.6