For some strange reason, I've been thinking about the title of this entry. "Why did I emigrate?" I ask myself over and over again. The practical reasons are simple to understand: I met an Irish girl. I brought her home to the States. There, I lost my job. We had a daughter. I was living in the San Francisco Bay area, and the 82 Recession was horrible. So I had to move somewhere. And why not Ireland after all?
But the practical doesn't always explain the impractical, or the sub-conscious hand that pushes us ever onward. Hence that question: "Why did I emigrate?" I'm curious. And I started to draw some conclusions on the childhood up-bringing that made this tumbleweed blow so far East.
My father was an airline pilot. The photograph above is a United Air Lines DC-6, one of the many types of aircraft that he was rated for. His love of flying took us all over the United States. Over a ten year period Mom, Dad, my sister Cindy, and I lived in Chicago, Seattle, New York, Florida, back to Chicago again, then onto California - and meanwhile, I went to college and lived in Bloomington Illinois, Michigan, and Los Angeles. To my reckoning, and from 1964 to 1974 (and excluding my college years) I lived in four different states and in 8 homes, while attending 8 different schools.
That's a lot of travel. And I found it affected me in many ways.
I felt rootless. Since those days, I constantly ask myself, "Where is home?" Home, as they say, is where you hang your hat, or where your heart and family are. But for me, that's never been quite the case. Home to me is the smell of Mom's cherry pie wafting through our Seattle home way back in 1960. That's a long time ago. Mom isn't with us anymore, and the house - while still there - contains other people and other types of cooking smells. So finding my version of 'home' is impossible.
Moving and Moving and Moving
Moving so many times had other effects on me: while I made friends quickly, I knew that I was going to lose them. Unlike many transplants like me, my commitment and loyalty to those friends was more than 100 percent. I wanted and needed their friendship. Because I was a stranger, I wanted to be liked instantly. I did everything that I could to fit in and to deserve friendship. And when I left, I was always devastated. Even more so when my letters back to them went un-answered.
I grew up to be a cameleon: a fellow who could change his spots almost instantly. A guy who always fit in - but not quite. It is a discomfiting, uncertain feeling. A scary feeling. A feeling of never belonging to anything.
But what is most interesting is this: this sort of background also makes you want to move again and again and again. You're never quite ready to settle down. You want to experience other things on an almost constant basis: "What's around the next horizon? Will it be as beautiful as what I've already seen? Will the people be as intersting? Will they accept me and befriend me?"
For a long, long time I thought I was one of the only people in the world to feel this way. And then a friend of mine suggested that I was much like a child brought up in the military: a Military Brat. That clicked with me. In the airlines, the children of airline pilots are called Airline Brats, and for the same reason: we are powerless to control our destinies. Instead, we are the subject to the whims of airline seniority, or a new city with a chance of a promotion to Captain or a different airplane type.
I finally found a blog devoted to these types of rootless, tumbling people: http://bratblog.brightwellpublishing.net/. Written by a woman who was the daughter of a career Army officer, it explains a lot to me about my own penchant for risking everything on a whim. It also explains to me why I never thought twice about moving to Ireland and becoming a lifetime immigrant. It also tells me that while I've settled here and am happy here, Ireland has never quite been my home.
It tells me why I've been able to make a go of it here, yet also why I continue to miss a home that probably doesn't exist anymore.
So tell me. If you're considering a move to Ireland - or anywhere outside of the United States - do you have a similar background? Are you a tumbleweed who revels in your own rootlessness? Who enjoys the challenge of trying new places and people, and that desires to push the envelope by now trying a completely different culture?
I'd appreciate your posts. I'm really interested if there are other people out there who are as puzzled as I am when I ask myself the question: "Why did I move to Ireland?"