The other day my dad kindly informed me that if I ever stood for politics I’d need to renounce my Malaysian citizenship. This, of course, occurred in the context of the dual citizenship debacle that has kept Australia entertained for the last few months.
Now I’m not sure how to feel about the fact that my father thinks a political career is a real possibility me – high expectations, much?
Anyway, it occurred to me (and I explained to him) that I could only really do that in Canberra. There is simply no other place on earth where I could reasonably claim to represent the population.
Yet, having experienced life beyond Australia’s bush capital I’m positive that if I have ever been even vaguely representative of the Canberran populace, surely that’s no longer the case.
And that, my friends, makes me a little sad.
It’s made me reflect on how mobility over the last several years of my life has come at the cost of rootedness. Eight moves in seven years, not including moving house within cities. Three countries. In and out of Australia. In and out, and in and out, and back again.
I am so used to making new friends in new places that I’ve gotten to love it, desire it.
I am grateful for old friends in old places – they warm my heart and are a comfort to me.
And new friends in old places? Well, that’s a wonderful thing, too.
Since moving to Sydney, I haven’t made it a habit to visit Canberra any more than once every few months. I suspected (and heard from others) that it would be hard to settle in if I spent too many weekends away.
And so it was that two weekends in a row back in my hometown left me feeling simultaneously filled and afloat. Neither here nor there.
Yet I’ll get cabin fever from consecutive weeks even in a diverse and buzzing city like Sydney.
I’m in this moment of wanting it all – wanting to be a foreigner and a native, to be a nomad and a local, to belong everywhere and yet somewhere in particular.
I suspect many of us crave glocal life, though each of us will want varying proportions of the global and the local in that combo. For some lucky people, dinner at the Indian restaurant down the road might satisfy both in one sweet hit.
Global for me is spending time with expats and finding opportunities to speak in Spanish.
Local for me is working with my church to serve our immediate community and sitting by the harbour or soaking up the vibes at the North Sydney produce market.
My glocal efforts are intentional but they feel tokenistic.
Sometimes I’m not sure they’re enough. None of this is sufficiently global or sufficiently local, which leaves me, well, hanging in between. “Hanging” is what you do at your friend’s place, what teenagers do at suburban shopping centres.
Soon after I moved to Sydney, I reflected on what home meant for me as an ex-expat. I thought then that reconstructing my concept of home would be fairly straightforward. Ask me now and it is hard for me to see things as other than temporary or eternal. Two extremes but there’s a truth in that, I suppose.
Building My New Home is more than “recreating abroad at home”. I’ve realised that for me it needs to involve periods of actually being abroad (more global) and being more present in my neighbourhood (more local). Being more present mentally and emotionally in my day-to-day. Less hanging.
Is there a place on earth that can ever be more home to me than Canberra? Is there a place on earth where I could belong enough to seriously consider running for Council or Parliament? I can’t yet picture where that might be.
But I guess some Perth guy called Gavin just got elected mayor of Annapolis in the US, so there’s hope yet for me here. Or wherever my next destination happens to be.