When we were packing and moving out of our previous homes – Wife’s apartment in Brussels, mine here in Germany – we had these waves of premature nostalgia that made us think we would miss these places – old, familiar, filled with memories – a lot, at least in the early months of the transition. But life in this new home has proven us wrong: we’ve plunged into the business of living here, and although there are moments when the views from this apartment make us stop and stare (and we remind ourselves how lucky we were to find a place like this), for the most part life simply moves along a straight line and keeps us busy, from one week to the next, seldom permitting the extended leisure that is needed to drift into reverie and to think back to the weekends in Brussels.
We’ve grown used to this new place pretty fast, and I wonder why. It wasn’t exactly this way when Wife had moved to Brussels in 2007, but that was a new city, a new language – actually, two new languages – a different way of life. Here, for me at least, the surroundings seem familiar: the new apartment is less than ten kilometers away from the previous one. And while the apartment is new, the furniture and all the stuff we fill our lives with has not changed. The music we listen to is the same, the news that BBC spews out sounds routine, the magazines that arrive by post have the usual caricatures, the contacts listed on the phone are familiar and I’m sure Wife would add to this list her social interactions on Facebook, which haven’t really changed.
So it seems that we tend to carry our lives around with us. Our attachment to physical things is not new – anyone who has moved would know how difficult it is to part with the otherwise-useless utensil that Grandma handed to mother who passed it on to you – but these days there is the stuff they loosely call ‘information’ which you cannot throw away even if you wanted to. The instant accessibility of all kinds of information – your mails, files, photos, and even your Facebook-friends! – no matter where you are is touted as a big advance, a convenience previous generations could only dream of. These virtual world artifacts may offer a sense of familiarity in a foreign place, but they also snatch away any possibility of total immersion in a wholly new environment. When as a child I moved with my parents, my whole world would turn upside down, and I recollect these transitions – the strange surroundings, the new friends (and bullies) in the neighbourhood, the new rules at school – more intensely (and fondly) than other periods from the past. I would love to experience such a change now – something that causes a dislocation, a new-new beginning.
Is this possible at all?