Our life here in the northeastern part of British Columbia in Canada has just about come full circle. Summer is just around the corner and people are scrambling to get their toys out to play and take full advantage of the warm weather. When summer finally sets in, we would have experienced all four seasons of this beautiful country.
We arrived here last summer and one year doesn’t seem that long. We haven’t settled down just yet, that’s for sure but, one year through our lives in this great country feels like just moments ago. Perhaps, we simply lost track of time trying to settle down. Or, maybe the divided seasons gives the passing of time the illusion of being too fast. Winter seems too long and summer seems too short. Spring and autumn seems to just pass by almost without notice.
People might ask, how does it feel to be so far away from home? This is not an easy question to answer mainly because this may not be the right question to ask considering my situation. Due to my experience at being away from home for so long, I have lost track of what a home feels like, much less what it looks like. At the few times that I have managed to “come home” to my hometown, it sadly made me realize that the place I once called “home” have ceased to be one for me. My hometown is never the same after a few years of being away. The house is gone; the friends are gone or have moved out, perhaps never to meet again. Even close relatives have become more like strangers than anything else. The familiar faces and places are now replaced with strangers and unfamiliar streets and edifices. The uncanny feeling of being a stranger in your own hometown inevitably sets in. The feeling of “home” is gone.
The number of years that one stays in one place is not always the defining factor that makes it a place to call home. This will be true only if one doesn’t move away. I’ve spent 25-plus years in my hometown, about half of my present age, and yet, I feel more “at home” in my most recent place before moving to Canada wherein I’ve stayed for only 6-plus years. That’s not even half the time I’ve stayed in my hometown. I believe that one of the defining factors for a place in becoming a home is the amount and the quality of the meaningful relationships that have been built and nurtured in that place. Once these relationships cease to exist, the definition of home for that place ultimately disappears.
So, how does it feel like trying to find a home? As I ponder upon this question, the answer seems as elusive as finding that proverbial needle in that proverbial haystack. Perhaps, I have been without a home for too long that I feel more at home with the idea than anything else. When I speak of home in this context, it means having a permanent place to really settle down and take root, if you may. And if building and nurturing meaningful relationships are the building blocks of home, then we are definitely still a long way off, especially out here in this place that we have just moved in.
This whole idea of “homelessness” was chosen out of necessity. I chose to accept the situation because it was a necessary step, at that time, to get on with my life. Choosing this path was the best way to move forward. It is a bothersome idea being too comfortable at being without a home. It disturbed me to think that my children might grow up not having a true identity of who they are. Of course, they knew that they are Filipinos, and that they are of the masculine gender, and that they are called by certain unique names and that they cannot escape that fact that they have a certain surname that they acquired from their father. But, the bigger scheme of things such as, in which society they will take root or what place do they hold in this society, is something that needed to be established. I remember my eldest son’s longing to go back to Abu Dhabi, not so much for the awesome malls and the scorching weather but rather because he has left a lot of his friends there. I know that my younger son felt the same way. Again, the element of the built, nurtured and meaningful relationships takes center stage here. Even if I had to read between the lines in the many ways they expressed those desires, it really pains me to think that they really miss their friends. Now that moving to a place where the opportunities to acquire new friends have narrowed down considerably, this has definitely affected their psyche and social life. I may never know the real effects on them as a person, whether for good or for bad.
Perhaps I need to mention also that these adjustments do not affect our children alone. My wife and I terribly miss the warm fellowship and the satisfying worship experience we had with our church family in Abu Dhabi. We miss the provocative conversations and the pleasurable experiences we shared with our friends. Unfortunately, the fellowship experience here is as unenthusiastic as eating a bowl of cold soup in a cold winter night. The fact that we are new in this place could be the reason for this experience. Hopefully, this will change as we start to settle down just a little bit and get to know the people. It will take considerable time and effort to find that “homey” place and feeling again. Although this may not be our last stop before heaven, our family is earnest in our effort to find a home somewhere out here on this vast and magnificent country.
For the past seven years, I have lived a “semi-nomadic” life, moving from here to there depending on the kind of circumstance or opportunity that would present itself. Several times, I am tempted to envy those who have the privilege to really settle down in their “homes.” Living a “semi-nomadic” life is not always a bad thing. This kind of life has actually taught me to be open and always ready for change. It teaches one to be less emotionally attached to material things that will eventually be left behind, be given or thrown away.
The emotional attachment that comes from worthwhile personal relationships that were built over time is completely another matter of course. This type of attachment does take time to get detached from. Although, one can get used to this after going through it a few times, there is real danger that lies beneath the surface. One can get so used to it that it may seem alright to just build superficial relationships or even worse, cease to build at all? To avoid getting emotionally attached and thus risk getting hurt, one will finally end the desire to build true and meaningful relationships. This is definitely not the way to live. This is not the way God designed life to be. Life is about meaningful, refreshing and wonderful relationships if it is to be worth living at all. But it does begin with having the right relationship with God. Eventually, this will lead towards the right relationships with our neighbors.
The human heart or, shall I say, the human mind is a resilient organ. It can remember if prompted to or it can forget if deemed necessary. But, I do find myself struggling many times to forget the fond memories and the pleasurable conversations among true friends. Good memories of good friends are hard to forget even with a resilient mind. Perhaps, it’s not even a good idea to try to forget those memories in the first place.
The “semi-nomadic” life does not allow much room for meaningful relationships to germinate, take root and eventually grow. Relationships take time to develop. It would require one to actually stay in one place for considerable amount of time in order for any relationship to have a chance to grow. I’m sure that it requires so much more, but without these prerequisites, it is doomed before it even begins. And if meaningful relationships are the building blocks of home, then it goes without saying that to build a home we need to build meaningful relationships.
One year on, I still have to find my place in the bigger scheme of life here in Canada. It is safe to say, too, that I am still very much trying to find my place in the bigger scheme of life itself. True friends are really hard to find and it is truer as one gets older. That’s a mild understatement. The job is good but the language barrier is something that still needs to be overcome. Not to mention overcoming the culture gap and the generation gap as well. It is not so much as the English language as the way it is spoken out here and how ideas are expressed compounded by the lingo of the Canadian culture that makes it a challenge to get across the language barrier. One year on, and I have yet to find a crack on that barrier. Anyway, I’ll continue chipping on that wall and perhaps, one of these days it will fall down like the walls of Jericho. Fortunately, my sons are having better success at this than me or my wife. This is a good sign. The youth are definitely resilient. Adults are more flexible though, brought about by experience and maturity, although maturity is beginning to sound more like old age.
I am not in a rush but, admittedly, I expected too much for yet so little time. I guess the middle age crisis alarm signals are starting to sound off just a little bit. The sounds are ever so subtle but audible nonetheless.
I would like to end this writing on a positive note or in hopeful note for that matter. It is springtime now here in Fort St. John. Spring always bring with it the opportunity for new life and hope. Every once in a while, there is a slight rain but overall the weather is great. Summer is just around the corner and the children are really excited about riding their new bicycles. There is nothing like the seemingly boundless energy and the enthusiasm of the youth to remind us that life is great. There is a certain kind of urgency in them that pushes them to really try to enjoy life and I wish that I could still see life through their eyes. Middle age crisis shall have its day, but not for now.
Life is hard, but God is good. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Life can only have real meaning if one has a real meaningful relationship with God. Only then will this translate to meaningful relations with our neighbors. Amidst all of life’s challenges, it would be wise to invest in building that relationship with our Creator God. As one wise person once said, the knowledge of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
In the meantime, there is life to be lived to the fullest. There is a home to be built. There are friends to be found, old friends to re-connect, and relationships to be built or re-built. Life goes on…from here to there.