The dog is nervous because he sees a suitcase on my bed. It’s fully packed and my last remaining hours of visiting my family in Vegas are quickly coming to a close, and I look forward to getting on the big plane that will take me back to London where my work is. Getting ready to board a plane is always a slightly surreal experience. Mom ties my shoes and brushes my hair before pulling it back in a tight braid so it will not be in my way during the flight. Dad comes home from his job at the office to make me lunch and feed it to me as a sort of last meal. These are the rituals I take to board the exact same plane over and over to get to the exact same place at the exact same gate, take the exact same road back to my flat, and even plop down on my bed before undoing the shoes that Mom tied, the hair she braided, and realizing that my last real meal was yesterday with my father. Travelling this route works like a machine. Many cogs put it together to create something that you would never suspect would happen unless you looked at the bigger vehicle.
When most people who I knew from my childhood hear that I currently live and work full time in London, they are in shock. Ex-teachers, therapists, family friends, relatives, immediately begin peppering my mom with questions about how I survive in a foreign country so far away. The fact that we share a common language doesn’t seem to make any difference with regards to me being a foreigner. How does she eat? Who ties her shoes? Who washes her hair? And to tell the truth, this reaction, although on one level understandable, on a certain level is surprising. The more I think about it the more I wonder what they are expecting me to make of my life? It seems too obvious that I’m meant to be in London doing what I’m doing. After all it was their influence from a young age that taught me not to fear the world but embrace it and explore all the corners of the world I could possibly get to.
At first, when I announced that I was headed to England immediately after graduating from university, I was in a way lauded. “Everyone should take a year off and put some maturity under their belt,” they told me. I could still see the fear in their eyes but understood that there was more than this. Several of them did exactly that after their graduation, joining the Peace Corps to live in a remote part of the world and visit a place where they could lend a helping hand. One teacher from high school even encouraged me, saying in an email, “You are entering your wandering years… Don’t let the careerist itching common to our breed start to itch at you. The 20’s are a searching time… Look at this time as the fruit of your ancestors’ hard work. You owe them the best.” Below is a quote from John Adams in a letter to Abigail, as if such a quote was proof of the wandering years he suggested. But, at my age, the gap year between college and real life should have ended several years ago and the fact that I received a degree in London just recently, points to roots that are slowly beginning to grow away from home, raising the eyebrows of so many.
But why is the fact that I’m still in England so shocking? As I mentioned earlier, I was raised around individuals who came to America from foreign places to pursue their own dreams. I am as much the Brazilian woman who taught me to dress myself as I am the fact that I still need magnetic buttons to close my coat. I am made up of the European woman who taught me to speak and suggested to my mother that someday I would not just master English but other languages as well. I am the Hungarian woman who came to our summer camp every year in order to serve children with a disability, and I am also made up of the Canadian atheist who went into the mission fields of Mexico with me not for claiming what I believed but realizing that I should be able to proclaim it myself. These individuals, as far as they came, a piece of themselves was given to me as well as making the woman I am today. Part of being who they were was the love of travel and adventure. That’s where my love of the same travel and adventure came from.
I always feel a bit nostalgic as I untie my shoes once I’m back in my flat. I immediately miss whoever tied them last, wanting to keep them tied as a sort of keepsake. But, I know that the person who did so did not raise me to sit still and cling to loved ones in one place. The people who brought me up taught me to explore, even despite all the potential difficulties that may come of it. I am thankful for the person who tied my shoes last, realizing the irony of not being able to tie one’s own shoes but yet flying halfway around the world. I am in communion with the person who will tie my shoes in London, living life where we are in the present moment, and I wonder who will tie my shoes when I become restless and seek to travel again?