Malawi is already a distant memory. We have spent our first 48 hours in our new apartment, in a new city. Outside our window buskers sing Adele covers, the ice cream vendor sets up his van in the morning and drives away at the end of the day, and people stroll and take pictures. There is life! So much life and color. Fig has found her favorite spot on the desk by the window, where she can people-watch and take in all the new sounds. I worry about her. Is she scared? Does she miss being able to go outside into the vast garden that was her kingdom in Malawi? How long will it take her to form attachments to this new place? Malawi is all she has ever known. Unlike me, she has roots. My cat has roots and I don’t.
We are in love with the apartment, and with the city. Within walking distance there is a farmers’ market, an organic store, a butcher, a theater and a beautiful, clean little river. We have a roof terrace where we’re going to put plants and herbs, and we were so lucky to be given furniture, so we’ve gone from having nothing to having everything.
So why do I feel trapped and weighed down?
This is what I have been dreaming of. For so long I have thought that putting down roots would be a remedy for me, but now I feel like all these possessions, these responsibilities are a ball and chain. I am committing to one year at university, which I am very excited about, but I have no idea what happens after I graduate. I know I can’t go back into teaching. Teaching destroyed my soul. I didn’t want it to, but it did, and I have finally accepted that that was beyond my control. As much as I believe in education and as much I love working with young people, there is something about the job that kills my creativity and fills me with dread.
I feel very unsettled, but maybe it’s still early days and I haven’t had time to adjust to this city and learn its rhythms. I keep asking myself, Can I make this my home? The question rolls down the cobbled streets and bounces off the ancient, crooked buildings, but no answer comes back. I’ve never felt at home in England, but then I’ve never felt at home anywhere. Being an outsider is all I have ever known and trying to settle down as an outsider fills me with so much anxiety that I would rather just be a temporary visitor, a wandering vagabond, a Snufkin coming and going with his pipe and harmonica and all his possessions on his back.