Aren’t we all born from the same Earth?
And one way or another, we will return to it. But in the meantime, some of us pack our bags and find a place we can call home elsewhere, for a myriad of reasons.
It is summer in the early 2010s. We are visiting my hometown in the east coast of Spain, and seek refuge from the blinding sun and crushing heat in the quiet surroundings of a Starbucks coffee shop. Globalisation is well and truly here. The chain is newly arrived to that part of Spain and already proving popular with trendy students and young professionals alike, looking for a new twist in the art of drinking coffee.
On the table next to our family, a group of guys in their late 20s share dreams and sip lattes in a convivial way. They all share a common goal, lost in an animated conversation about where they want to be in the next couple of years. And it’s truly a ‘where’, because they have all applied for a postgraduate or postdoctoral research opportunity abroad. Canada, the UK and Germany are some of the destinations mentioned, along with the pros and cons of living and working there.
These young people seeking opportunities in the belief that the world is their oyster remind me of a younger, more idealist version of myself. The person who packed too many belongings and set off in an adventure, arriving into Heathrow in September 2001 with a nine-month contract, an address in Harrow-on-the-Hill and too many unanswered questions about life.
We did it because our beautiful, sun-drenched, friendly country, with its amazing gastronomy and culture, could not offer us the opportunity to thrive or grow into the full-rounded, professional-driven individuals we wanted to be.
We didn’t want to be a lawyer who became a part-time English language school teacher, an economy teacher who has been working as a school caretaker for over ten years, a vocationally-educated professional who has been unemployed for nearly 10 years, with only three jobs since then – all in the black market. People I know, stories I’ve heard.
The word ‘diaspora’ doesn’t tell you about the hybrid you will become, and the hole it will leave in your soul forever – when you realise, too far down the line, that belonging in two places can be a source of richness as much as of turmoil and unmet yearning, as you won’t belong to either of those places. For once the winds of diaspora, political, economic, personal or just wanderlust, throw you around the world, you cannot go back into the box – you will never be the person you once were or be able to go back to the same place in the same river. And it’s part of our struggle to live this as a source of open possibilities, rather than a category that limits us.