Instead of writing my essay – the last academic essay I ever plan on writing – I am mentally flitting off to various countries on tiny little holidays meant just for me. I’m dreaming of Spanish beaches and Parisian flats and wandering the streets of Belfast. (Okay, those are the holidays I’m actually planning, and possibly none of them would be on my own.) I’m dreaming of Kilimanjaro and Angkor Wat and the Himalayas.
But at the same time, I’m dreaming of a flat in Edinburgh with a flatmate or two and my pictures on the walls and Sunday breakfast.
I’m torn. My heart needs to wander, my heart needs to nest. I need to get on a plane, I need to watch the clouds below me, I need the sense of coming back down to earth. I need a clean flat, a good dinner on the stove, a bookcase overflowing with books. I need a home to come back to before I can leave.
TS Eliot once said, “Home is where one starts from.” Where did I start? Am I starting now? If I leave and come back, does that make this home? Is it that simple, can I claim it so easily?
The truth is, I’m as torn as I ever am. Travel is healing, but the familiar is comfortable. I’m taking a day and going out to Glasgow soon and, for the first time, I’m slightly intimidated about going somewhere by myself. It’s worrying me. I don’t stress about flying off to a country where I don’t speak a word of the language and wandering around, but taking the train out to a new city is scaring me now. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s because I thought I would have somebody to explore with.
When I moved over here, there was a very clear plan. But, for a variety of reasons, that plan no longer exists. Can never exist again. I’m operating with no more than a vague sense of where I want to go, and that terrifies me. It’s not that I can’t find a new plan – I will. I always have. It’s more that, for the first time in a really, really long time, I’m letting myself hang in the nothingness. I’m embracing the fear and the nervousness and I’m just living.
My world is small right now, and the idea of opening it up is scary. Edinburgh is the best adventure I’ve ever had, Scotland owns my heart in a way I didn’t think any country ever could. But I’m starting to think I’m a little bit lonely.