I’ve never lived in a country for longer than 8 years. When I left America I was convinced it wasn’t permanent, that we’d stay here for a couple of years and then go back. I was convinced I’d be there when my friends graduated, I’d grab a date for prom with them and we’d all go to college as a team. My life for a while was in a made up temporary state and my heart was never fully invested in the country I found myself living in.
I’ve never considered myself to be a South African although my passport and ID will tell you otherwise. I think I’ve always just been a child of the universe, an international baby born and raised: born in Singapore, raised in America, matured in South Africa with a few summers in England and Spain thrown into the mix. My childhood was interesting, loud and colourful with different cultures to explore and appreciate and so many new places to experience.
I spent my summers in Baldock, a place a little way away from London that I’ve now learnt is not a heritage to be very proud of, apparently I was 8 years old and visiting thug town, but I loved it none the less. When hanging out at the local Tesco and cycling around the alley behind my Dad’s house got boring, the 7 of us would go to sunny Spain and a house often described as “the cow shed”. Winters were festively spent with my mom ice skating in Central Park and visiting important art galleries I didn’t consider significant at the time.
Looking back, everything was taken for granted. Dad moved out of Thug Town and into a place nicer than the Cow Shed, Mom found South Africa more appealing despite the lack of iconic art and once again Harriet found living in a cool country average.
Yet here she is, almost 9 years after abandoning the proverbial American ship, restless and wild, appreciating the place she now lives but wanting to go somewhere else, everywhere else.
Talking in 3rd person is exhausting. I’ll switch back to 1st person narrative.
The thought of spending more than half my life in the country I thought was a temporary joke startles me, yet I have 4 more years of studying and a soul itching to be let loose.
The people I’m surrounded with are stiff. It’s very rare that I’ll come across a person in South Africa as liberal as me, as open minded. That’s the problem with having a tradition and religion ingrained into the very structures of society, there’s a lot of talk about it, but very little freedom available. We as the youth like to believe we’re living life well; going on a piss-up every Thursday and lying down passed out on the bathroom floor constitutes as “Carpe Diem”, lying to our parents about who we’re with and how many drinks we’ve had is “living on the edge” and dating many different types of the same person counts as being adventurous.
I can’t spend my misspent youth like this, it’s not my idea of a good time, instead it’s my idea of getting stuck in an infinite cycle: Go to school to get into varsity, go to varsity to get a job, work until you die with a few raucous Friday nights thrown into the mix in the name of variety.
I think the world and people are meant to be explored and life exists to be loved. We’re meant to dance across oceans and breathe in the air of different altitudes.
I’ve always been restless, not to go back to the places of my childhood, but perhaps to remain in my childhood.