If you spend enough time with me you’ll soon learn I am a being full of existential dilemmas, constantly going in and out of the existential crisis mode. I’m in a perpetual state of untangling my life as if it’s a string of Christmas lights jumbled up into a dense ball. Sometimes I get some of it to line up straight and make it look presentable and on other occasions I manage to make the mess even worse.
It occurred to me that perhaps some of my existential crises come from the particular position that I’m in: from the fact that I’m a migrant.
I use the word migrant deliberately to make a clear distinction between what I am and who emigrants are. Where I come from there is this long-standing tradition, perpetuated by Romantic literature, of depicting all of those leaving their country of origin as the Banished, the Oppressed, and the Persecuted. To be forced to leave one’s country is the highest form of punishment, the hardest choice to face and hopefully only a temporary measure. Emigrants in the Polish tradition only stay away for as long as it’s absolutely necessary. They return home as soon as they can, sometimes even before they’ve served their penance, thus risking further persecution.
To be an emigrant is to be in a constant state of longing for the Motherland. Uprooted and forever missing a place where you belong.
When leaving Warsaw, I wasn’t running away from persecution, from hardship or a dictatorship. I chose to leave to lead my life somewhere else. There was nothing dramatic about my relocation to Australia. There is no captivating story to be told here, no founding myth to pass on to my descedants. My experience has nothing on the heart-wrenching stories of Jews escaping the Nazis or communist dissidents defecting from their lands during the Cold War. And it certainly has nothing on the terrifying journey asylum seekers embark on to get to Australian shores, only to be then locked up in a horrific detention center on some godforsaken island, indefinitely.
Because my emigration was merely a relocation, something I’ve done almost on a whim, I feel like I don’t really deserve to talk about my experience. I certainly have nothing to complain about – I wouldn’t dare (not after the comparisons I’ve just made).
Is my need to talk about my perspective on migration just another form of my middle-class-mummy existential crisis?
I wonder how many of my peers, who like me chose to live abroad, ponder on their status in life. On average we are all: privileged, able-bodied and ambitious – the worst kind of economic migrants. We left looking for an improvement in our perfectly OK lives. No one was threatening us at home. We were able to find employment. We were surrounded by our friends and family. Yet, we chose to leave all of that behind in pursuit of something else.
Of course, there is always a reason and there are a million consequences of moving your life elsewhere, but for the most part they are trivial. So if our reasons for leaving were trivial and the consequences aren’t really of note either, what is our story? What kind of migrants are we? Is this a journey or have we reached a destination?
Back in the romantic days the answer was clear: “Whatever your chosen path, it must always lead you back to Poland – you shall return or die trying!” I don’t have a clear idea of where my path is meant to lead to and I suspect this might be why my life feels like a tangled strand of Christmas lights.
When she first relocated to Sydney people told her she was opinionated – she took it as a compliment, silly Heart. Now she knows better but remains opinionated. Heart is all bark and no bite, though. She’s not that scary because she’s not all that committed. She’s almost. Almost: a blogger; an artist; a stay-at-home mother; an activist; a career woman; a role model; a leader; a writer; a producer; a photographer. Heart is obviously a self-conflicted loony, but since idiosyncrasy is en vogue, she’s rolling with it.