I walked out of that door nearly sixteen years ago, with a one year contract, too much luggage and without a long-term plan.
‘Economic migrant’ is an OK label to explain why I left Spain for the UK years ago, but the reasons are more complex to unpick. I was young and a little adventurous and wanted a change. I wanted some space for myself to explore different ways of being, without facing the pressure to conform in a very traditional society.
In my early 20s, I was ready to fly the nest. I wanted to be independent, and earning my own money was a sure way to achieve this. A challenge in a country where unemployment is typically above 20%, much higher for the under 35s.
Now when I visit and step into that time-travel capsule that my parents’ flat is, it seems to have shrunk, shelves packed with childhood mementos, old toys and well-thumbed books. It was me who wanted to go, and yet some days I still wonder about the kind of person I could have been, had I chosen to stay. And yet, like Heraclitus said, you cannot step into the same river twice. Because my old neighbourhood has changed, society has changed, and I have changed.
Little by little, England has become my adoptive home country, whatever the political future brings. Moving here opened up opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise, from improving my language skills so I could read the original books (not translations), to meeting an amazing bunch of people from different walks of life, to travelling across the country and beyond. I had no history when I came here and enjoyed creating my own history as time passed. It was also interesting how the exotic or unknown became the everyday, from charity shops to double decker buses.
As I have grown into an adult, my definition of success has changed, and this will continue to happen as we are forever changing. I have many career/writing/ entrepreneurial goals yet unfulfilled.
There’s always a price to pay for success, or something that passes as success. For every day that my roots become firmer here, it’s a day when my ‘other life’ that could have been mine hasn’t existed. I had had to fight without much needed support sometimes. Family celebrations are often missed and much time is spent away from my elderly parents. I know that one day the phone will ring, and we will have run out of time.
One day, at a posh supermarket in Valencia, I overheard a middle aged man talking to the lady in the till. He was born in one of the Valencian-speaking small towns surrounding the city. Something struck me about the effortless way in which he spoke. He never learnt to speak in a language that wasn’t his own. He was truly home. And then I realised, that my life here is amazing and I wouldn’t change it, but that unspoken yearning for home is still well and truly alive underneath my new roots.