In It For the Long Haul

Before a recent Yuletide trip back to Ireland, I headed into a gift store to buy some choice Kiwiana for the family I’d soon be seeing on the other side of the world. The lady behind the till asked if I wanted my wares gift-wrapped. Please, I said, explaining that this would be the first time I’d been home for Christmas in four years. We went through the usual oh-that-will-be-nice-how-long-have-you-been-in-New-Zealand pleasantries, and she then asked how long I’d be away for. “Oh”, I said, “Indefinitely, I guess. I can’t ever see myself going back for good.” She looked puzzled and I realized we were talking at cross-purposes; whereas she was asking how long I’d be out of New Zealand on this specific trip, I was referring to how long I thought I was going to be away from Ireland for all in.

See, even though I’ve been living overseas for quite some time now, my bearings are still set so that “home” and “away” are automatically calculated in relation to Ireland. Well to a point. I also had to buy travel insurance for the Ireland trip: travel insurance for a trip “home”? That doesn’t seem to make sense. Equally, I deliberated over the customs forms on which I had to declare my normal country of residence. New Zealand? I’m only here on a student visa, albeit a three-year one, so have no claims to permanency here at all. But to describe myself as normally resident in Ireland seems equally misrepresentative, given that I’ve only spent one of year out of the past seven in my green and native land.

Either way, the concepts of “home” and “away” have become murkily obscured of late, especially when my passionate attachment to BC is added into the mix. If I were being fanciful, I could describe myself as one of those writers who “divides her time between Ireland, Canada and New Zealand”, which sounds terrifically glamorous and jet-setting. On the other hand, sometimes I feel I’m rattling around in a pinball machine, being pinged from place to place seemingly indefinitely on a global scale. (Short of relocating to McMurdo Station in the Antarctic, I don’t think I could triangulate myself across the globe any further than the current Ireland-New Zealand-Canada configuration.)

But shoddy as is my grasp of physics, I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing as perpetual motion, and that all this pinging around has to stop sooner or later. When I heard that the theme for this Fernie Fix issue was “New Year - new start”, I thought “Christ, another new start is the last thing I need right now.” There are only so many times you can kit yourself out with bed linen and hand blenders and hairdryers and other assorted household equipment, then jettison it all a year or so down the line as you take off for the next destination. Of course, material possessions are the least of it given the physical and emotional energy that goes into starting from scratch in a new locale; there’s finding somewhere to live, opening another bank account, getting set up with another cell phone, navigating around a whole new set of roads and one-way systems (not an issue in the Kootenays, true). And this is saying nothing at all about the hardest part of moving far away: those horrendous airport goodbye scenes and the gut-wrenching guilt at leaving friends and family behind.

So maybe my own new start for 2012 should involve (a) realizing that a new start doesn’t have to entail anything as momentous as a total change of life direction coupled with a move to a different continent. New Year’s resolutions can just as equally be about pledging to go to the gym more often or upping one’s consumption of leafy green vegetables (b) implementing a “no more new starts” policy, and committing to somewhere for the long haul instead of an annual or biennial relocation. But will that commitment be to BC or NZ? Watch this space... In the meantime, eating more kale and working on my core strength it is.