I return here today after a hiatus of two weeks. It’s been an interesting time away; I’ve managed to fulfil one of my life’s ambitions which is to be somewhere else in the world on behalf of a charity and helping those less fortunate than me and in desperate situations.
My recent trip found me in Adana, Turkey where there is a plethora of Syrian refugees who have been displaced by war. In particular, our team was dealing with children who are suffering from cancer as a direct result of chemical warfare. The stories we heard were harrowing, unsurprisingly. Yet all along the way, I met resilience and patience both from the parents and children alike. That, for me, was the greatest lesson of all. Despite the horrors these people have endured, their willingness to face their lot in life and persevere for a better future is admirable. There were personal encounters with children and parents which will forever be etched into my memory.
The trip out there also offered many moments when I would retreat into my own mind and question myself about my own future. Whilst Adana is definitely not a city I could envisage living in long-term, it is simultaneously somewhere I could consider making home if I were to be working on behalf of the charity itself. Even then, a few months would suffice. Not because of the nature of the work but more because the city, like many modern burgeoning cities worldwide, seems to have lost its soul. I need to live in a place that feeds my soul; a place that allows me respite and detachment from the monotony of life and helps me reconnect to my ultimate purpose in life. Adana did not do that for me. Were it not for the refugees who we were there to help, I would have no desire to be in that city.
That being said, I’ve since returned home to England and the proverbial question, “Where is home?” has popped into my thoughts constantly. It is not because of a romantic notion that living abroad in Turkey is the panacea to my unsettled mind. No doubt, travelling and being away from normal life does make me question so much. But even without short trips abroad, I have always maintained that British society has lost its soul. It has long been caught up in the insiduous but silent pandemic where the main ailment is that communities are suffering from a selfish disregard for the other. We are great at holding doorstep conversations for ages with our neighbours but never invite them in. Such a British oddity. At least it’s what I’ve observed amongst others. There is no community cohesion or a sense of selflessness.
So, shouldn’t home be the place where the heart is? Isn’t it where my sons are? That might seem logical but truth be told, I don’t even think my sons feel that permanent connection to the UK. Yes, I believe we’d all agree that having a base here is important. It is, after all, where we were all born and the society we are most familiar with. However, having lived abroad and in such diverse countries, I don’t think any of us feel we quite fit the mould of any one society. A positive thing as much as it is troublesome.
Home will never be a fixed place for me. I’ve lived a life of knowing the ephemeral nature of everything. I will always feel poised to pack up and move on if I have to. Not necessarily a convenient thing but at least it reminds me that life itself is not forever. My conclusion is that home is wherever I feel a sense of purpose. I can have the best bricks and mortar but if my life is empty and devoid of meaning, then staring at perfectly painted walls will be of no use to me. I know my sons also cannot give me meaning to my life. I will not be waiting around simply to see them move on and up. Whilst that is a very important part of my life, it is still more about being the observer of their lives. I need to have something for me which will be there irrespective of who is or is not in my life. Am I making any sense?
In all the melee of my thoughts, I grow more and more aware of the fragility of life itself. As time passes, so does the concept of home. There is no real excitement as there once was when I was young and newly married and on the cusp of great adventures. The lens through which I view life now is much narrower. In that light, home will never be a singular fixed place for me. It will always be a place where I feel I can be part of a community and not live in apathetic isolation. Having my sons nearby would be a huge bonus but the reality of life is that I can’t expect to be near all of them all of the time. They will one day most likely spread their wings and want to explore the world. Perhaps my home will move with one of them but to be lucky enough to be near all of them is most unlikely.
Till then, I have to make the best of what I have now and understand that Allah’s plan for me is the best.