Following the Yellow Brick Road

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When I left my homeland seven years ago, I wasn’t running from anything. I hadn’t been stock-piling food for fear that South Africa was ‘going the way Zimbabwe’ had gone. I believed, and still do, that the country has a bright shiny future. I was following my own little dream – to see the world, to meet weird and wonderful creatures and learn clever things. At least I think that was my dream, but it’s all so long ago now, who can really remember? The days and the years speed by, the lessons change and the faces rearrange. All I can be sure that lingers on is the desire to see the world, to discover new places and people out there on the untrodden road.

There is a price to pay for all this newness and adventure. For every fascinating foreign encounter, a heartfelt homely one is forfeited. For every new relationship forged, an existing one is neglected.  All the energy we expend in adjusting, adapting and acclimatizing to new environments is used up and cannot be invested in other things. Emotionally, I live in two countries and service two sets of relationships. It’s important to recognize which of these are transient and which have really got your back, and invest in them accordingly. A big bad city like New York really helps to put things in perspective, you learn quickly that for all the wow factor, people here are self-involved and unlikely to invest in you. When a hurricane hits, that person you thought you had a really solid relationship with, is unlikely to invite you to stay in their guest bedroom on the Upper West Side.

But that ‘s just the flip side of why people come here in the first place, in search of self-sufficiency and self-expression. The anonymity afforded by a place that is not your own can be a convenient guise and fuel for freedom and re-invention. Or it can just be fucking lonely. It all depends on what you’re hoping to discover on your path at that point in time. And herein lies my massive conflict: I want to be invisible but I want to belong, I love my family and my country but I also love living here. In such unclear-cut cases, one has to make a choice –  to abandon one world or to inhabit two simultaneously and dedicate a little more energy to a double life. For me, this is a privilege rather than a sacrifice. It affords me the luxury, of one day, when the going gets too tough, to be able to click my heels and wake up in a place where the sun is shining, the language is colorful and the love is abundant.New York, I adore you, but there’s no place like home.

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7 thoughts on “Following the Yellow Brick Road

  1. After 16 years living away from SA I returned last year. For 8 of those years I was living in NYC. Your post rang SO true to my insides I had to say thank you and include a line that jumped off the page and made me smile…….”I want to be invisible but I want to belong”.

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  2. Fantastically true. I have been living in London and New York for eight years and too left SA to explore the adventure and see the world not for any kind of hatred that so many ppl just assume. What u are saying resonates with me, I used that exact analogy after hurricane sandy and I felt like nobody understood.

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    • Thanks Claudia. It’s good to hear there are other South African living abroad who feel the same way. I hope you’ve been able to find some locals who will take you in in a time of crisis. I think we just need to keep telling people that we left the country for positive reasons and encourage them to make it the first country they visit!

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  3. Pingback: Turning 30 | GrowingOnUp

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