Another Country


Chelsea Fagan reflects on the experience of being an ex-pat:

So you look at your life, and the two countries that hold it, and realize that you are now two distinct people. As much as your countries represent and fulfill different parts of you and what you enjoy about life, as much as you have formed unbreakable bonds with people you love in both places, as much as you feel truly at home in either one, so you are divided in two. For the rest of your life, or at least it feels this way, you will spend your time in one naggingly longing for the other, and waiting until you can get back for at least a few weeks and dive back into the person you were back there. It takes so much to carve out a new life for yourself somewhere new, and it can’t die simply because you’ve moved over a few time zones. The people that took you into their country and became your new family, they aren’t going to mean any less to you when you’re far away.

My own experience is slightly odd, because the HIV immigration and travel ban both restricted my travel home for years and made me psychologically cling to my new home to excess. Like many immigrants, I romanticized America, and still do. But since I became a free man, about a year ago, my visits back home have been much less fraught, and my ability to reconnect with my previous life, my previous self, and all the friends and experiences and institutions I left behind has strengethened. It's been a bewildering process, and it continues. But I find my love for England deepening – its instinctive moderation, pragmatism, and freedom from fundamentalist fervor things I increasingly value and respect. Maybe because now I know I won't be forced back I can see it more dispassionately or less defensively. Or maybe I forget all the bad things and think only of the good.

(Photo from my vacation in Sussex, near my childhood home, last summer.)