Is this what it has all been for? I often ask myself these days. Few things are as devastating in life as a single event that robs you of your past, your present and your future. These dramatic events come to us all in life. The unexpected curb balls that will often hit us right on the heart through no fault of our own. It is painful enough when these balls hit us hard in our personal circumstances, but when the balls coming your way are of historic proportion; of such might and weight that it takes everything that you are and have to withstand them, your whole being is shaken to the core, to the point where you know that if you survive impact, the person you were before will die soon after. For most of us it takes a lifetime to accept that we all have to die at some point, but when you are condemned whilst living and asked to defend what and who you are, to prove your worth, to demonstrate your right to belong, it very much feels like being asked to surrender your freedom or else die before your time. Brexit is turning out to be such an event for me.
My first time in UK was as a teenager when I came over to Hastings back in the late 80s on an English Summer course, and stayed with a British family for six weeks. Previous and after that, I also travelled to Ireland, the States and even Australia to improve my English. The truth is ‘learning English’ was the persuasive argument I would put to my parents, but deep down I was simply meeting this deep need to run, to re-invent myself away from prejudice, constraint and rejection. I have always known that I am one of those individuals destined to be wanderers, never fully becoming a part of the place they inhabit or the people they journey on with, always seeking, always striving for that ideal that doesn’t really exist, always hoping someone, somewhere will see me, truly see ME and seek after and nurture those things I deeply care about and aim towards without trying to change the essence of who I am in the process. When I settled in the UK, I thought I had finally found that very haven of ‘live and let live’, that long sought after Shangri-La where multiculturalism is as much part of the landscape as the trees and the fields; where nobody cares whether you believe or what you believe in; where progress and tolerance are at the core of how people live and coexist with each other. I saw the UK as a country with a regrettable history of thuggish behaviour across the world which had come full circle and was now well into its way to redemption and healing by correcting the mistakes of the past and by bringing hope and help to those places where misery and gloom were planted centuries before. I saw the UK as a model of humanity, the paradigm of the only world I wanted, felt able to live in, to be fully myself.
In many ways, ending up in the UK started as a bit of a joke if you like, in the sense that I spent five years at university in Bilbao doing a degree in English Philology, because at the time it seemed like a good idea and I couldn’t think of anything else I could be remotely good at. I had no idea what I wanted to do professionally, but I was already a bit of an anglophile and it very much felt like the English language inexplicably was part of my make up; it was deeply rooted into my DNA though there is no trace of ‘Englishness’ in my bloodline as far as I know. Don’t ask me how or why. I just felt utterly drawn to anything English. My closest friends at the time predicted I would end up in the UK. They could see it in me way before I saw it myself. One could say it was written in the stars. For me it has been so far the weirdest of journeys, in the sense that I now look back and I am astonished at where I have ended, what I am now doing and who I am. And yet at the same time, much of what has happened feels so right, like finding the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that finally fit so neatly and perfectly in the very gap which was always meant for them, or at least that’s what it felt like before Brexit.
It did not help matters that things at home were not good when I was growing up in Bilbao, Spain. I was the middle child in a family of five children. The middle child syndrome was certainly true for me. Never really fitting in with the younger crowd or the older ones. I was a truly late developer physically also, which always made me feel so insecure. Whilst other girls my age were already attracting the attention of guys, I was always thought of as the ‘too pale’, ‘too skinny’, ‘too complex’, ‘too shy’, ‘too deep’, ‘too freckly’ kid who would much rather sit alone than become the target of the all too predictable losers who vent their hate and personal insecurities on the odd one out.
To be continued in Part 2