On the eve of the New Year, I looked back across 2018 to find one word lying heavy across my soul:
In 365 days, I have lived (unpacked and settled) in six different houses.
In 365 days, I have slept on thirteen different beds.
In 365 days, I have stayed in three different countries, and travelled through a further two. I spoke English in Papua New Guinea, Tok Pisin in Italy, Italian in Australia – no wait, New Zealand.
My purse has bulged with its own chaos: driver’s licences for two countries, phone sim cards for three, credit cards for five different currencies.
I walked into summer, then autumn, then winter. Then summer, then autumn, then spring. Then summer.
I mean… Si grazie.
I mean… What was the question again?
I said goodbye to old friends. I tried to make new friends – which is surprisingly difficult when you can’t stay in one place long enough for them to learn that your curls are indeed “au natural”. The frizz is too, by the way.
I packed and unpacked my suitcase more times than I can remember.
I bought fresh milk all over the country – all over the world. I probably scattered bobby pins all over the world too. A little gift of remembrance that I, the queen of the wanderers, was once here.
I learned that the essentials of the nomadic life are hair conditioner (that damn frizz), journals (Hi God, it’s me but in House #3), and a wonky old electric piano keyboard (with which to play melancholic songs written on one’s fractured meanderings).
“Lost inside me…” I crooned to the pages propped up on a windowsill in House #4, Country #2.
I exist everywhere and nowhere.
I adapt to every place, and yet I do not fit in any place. Not really.
And the more I wander, and the more ground I cover, the more I realise that – despite not really knowing what it looks like to settle – the wish to belong never really fades.
We all want to find that place we can call home. Better yet, that person we can call home. But sometimes, it just doesn’t happen.
Life is not about karma, or praying enough, or simply “believing” things into place.
Most of the time, we have no choice in how the chips fall.
The world would be a much kinder place if we could all get our heads around the general injustice and unpredictability of life itself, and then treat each other with an extra measure of respect and grace accordingly.
Because sometimes another person’s circumstance – no matter how avoidable it seems to us – was not actually of their choosing.
In fact, the only choice we really have is how we will respond.
Because life is chaos. But I don’t have to be.
So here I am, on the cusp of yet another year of indeterminate ground. And perhaps you too are facing an unexpected upheaval.
This therefore becomes a moment for me to raise the truths that I have learned on my short pilgrimage thus far. I press them to my heart, tie them to my body and wear them in honour of the gifts that my wanderings have taught me.
And in the faith that my own tears and triumphs will not be wasted, and in the hope that sharing these will bring some peace to you also, and in humble solidarity with anyone who finds themselves lost or displaced or facing a future painted with the unknown, here they are:
The gifts of the gypsy queen.
- Life will not be kind to everyone, but I can choose to be kind to everyone.
- Personal possessions are almost all non-essential; I will be amazed at what I can live without.
- Suitcase zippers will always break somewhere after the 79th use.
- Living in a state of uncertainty keeps your head up, and your eyes forward; don’t take for granted your expanded view of the world.
- Jesus was a homeless wanderer for three years, but he still chose to laugh and love and eat a fire-cooked breakfast on the beach.
- If the person I am becoming is currently undefined, yet always grace at the core, then it does not matter which life I live to be her.
- For every person you think might care, know that there are probably ten more.
- Never underestimate the power of choosing to be “at home” wherever you are; be it with friends, family, a cat, a meal.
- Never underestimate the comfort of portable music.
- Never underestimate how much you are loved.
- Always leave flowers in your wake.
Emma is an Italian-South African with a New Zealand passport and an international heart. She spent years running a puppet ministry and directing student choirs, before going on to serve with Mission Aviation Fellowship in New Zealand (7 years) and Papua New Guinea (3 years). Currently a nomad living between various countries and towns, Emma's deep joy is in writing, music, hearing people’s stories and finding God in unexpected places.
Emma’s previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/emma-mcgeorge.html