People often ask, “What did you come back for?” as though I escaped a prison and willingly returned to its suffocating cells and iron bars 3 years later. They ask “What did you come back for?” as though they’ve been scraping the crumbling walls with a plastic teaspoon this whole time, desperately creating mental escape routes in case the scraping ever paid off and they could have their first taste of freedom.
In all honesty I did at first feel like I was returning to a prison. If you asked me a year ago why I was planning on returning to the UK I would rattle off the practical reasons (relationship breakdown, too unwell to work enough to support myself, out of luck etc etc) and rapidly enter panic mode. Choosing to leave the sunshine, the vibe and the lifestyle of New Zealand to return to the UK wasn’t easy – not when I left the UK after just emerging from under a very dark cloud. My memories of the ‘homeland’ were grey and damp, stagnant and stifling. I struggled to give a good, positive reason for my return.
Ask me now “What did you come back for?” and I think I can answer you properly.
I didn’t know it at the time but I came back to feel how the skin on the back of my mums hand has aged and realise that time ticks on, people grow older and time with them is precious. I came back to watch my brother and his son laugh with each other and learn from each other. I came back to hear “hiya mate” in that lovely Hull accent and “Auntie!” jubilantly shouted between gaps in teeth. I came back to get to know the intricacies of someone’s eyes and to fall in love. Relationships in real time, in the same time zone.
It was unexpected but I came back for adventure. Hidden glens and waterfalls. Thick stone walls. The snow-capped Trossachs. Highland cows. Haggis, neeps and tatties. Tablet and tartan. I came back to be delighted by the Ochils every morning and have William Wallace guide me home each night. To see lochs like mirrors and cathedral ruins by the sea. Castles on my doorstep, cobbles beneath my feet. Centuries of history waiting, waiting.
I came back to drive a little red car around a new Shire and get to know its people. I came back for the lady who is convinced she’ll never play piano again. For little ‘Unclaimed Treasure’ and the man who hasn’t left his house for 4 years. For the lady who just needs a break.
I came back for all of the above.
I recently emptied my purse of receipts from South Australia, train tickets from Sydney, bus tickets from Wellington, boarding pass stubs from Auckland, loyalty cards for coffee shops on Cuba Street. And I’m ok. I’m not scraping cell walls with plastic spoons, I’m not suffocating or stagnating. I’m alright. I know why I came back now so I can exist in the here, the now, the present – happily.
But when people ask, as they always do, “What did you come back for?” – I shrug, I smile and I say “Long story”.