I first wrote “home” in the title and had to go back and delete it. Having left the place I was born more than four years ago, I think I am comfortable enough here to call it my home (and as I have already extensively discussed in previous posts, and will not repeat again). The bottomline is that over time, the things that move you, upset you and sadden you when you go back to the motherland, are also likely to change.
At first, I was feeling sad and remorseful about all the connections and acquaintances and (semi-) friendships I would cut lose, or which would simply run out of their course. It feels strange when you go back home and you barely know anyone apart from your family and some few lifelong friends. As one of those lifelong friends cleverly pointed out to me, you do not need to move away to lose these connections. You could very well be living in the same city and still lose touch. Not necessarily because you do not like each other anymore, or have nothing in common. Simply, life happens.
I became accustomed to change number 1 and was soon faced with others. Change number 2 was everything happening in the lives of those close to you, everything that you knew or did not know about, and happened without you there. Of course, it is great you each have your own experiences, and together also build some small, beautiful treasures. But somehow, it is difficult not to feel replaceable. Even your own parents, who surely should miss you profoundly, are doing alright after all.
The third thing that would frustrate me now, but not before, were numerous details from the everyday life, mundane observations if you like, but somehow those small things that make all the difference. Such as customer service, bureaucracy, litter on the streets, impoliteness, crudeness of people, their constant whining and complaining. It was overwhelming! To the point that I’d be having a terrible headache the first few days back home and I would feel like hiding in my room where I could be sheltered from all the negativity, noise, and what felt like poison for my peace of mind.
Of course, all of the above still can to a great state describe how I feel every time I get to spend a few days back home. Naturally, though, I am also always happy to be there. If nothing else, simply to be pampered and spoiled for a few days by my friends, catching up with some few dear friends, whose presence is like a balm from a sore soul, visiting my grandmother who every time would look scarily smaller and frailer, or reminiscing about the past, which I have conveniently selected the goods parts of.
Now I am more and more moved by the sadness and bitterness, by the negativity and desperation. Unfortunately, the discrepancy in my country, the difference between the poor and the filthy rich is preposterously immense, and a major part of the population lives on the verge of poverty, scraping for survival. It makes my heart bleed to read so often on the news how people have set themselves on fire simply because they cannot take it anymore. It is one thing (and bad enough already) to be desperate enough to take your own life, but from all the manners in which you could do it, choosing to set yourself on fire, to die a slow and painful death, is probably an indication enough of how unimaginably overwhelming in pain someone must be. Old people, instead of enjoying their retirement after working hard all life, can barely make ends meet. Just taking a road trip around my country, feels me up with squeezing pain. You see abandoned houses, half-ruined buildings, remnants of better times, of perhaps more joyous life. In many of them no one lives anymore, in others there are still some scarce inhabitants, sitting on a bench in front of their house, basking in the sun, waiting. Waiting maybe for the neighbor to come over and share the loneliness for a while, waiting for perhaps their children, either living in a bigger city, or abroad to remember them, or waiting for it all to end. I’ve read so many articles recently about the disappearance and depopulation in smaller towns and villages in Bulgaria. People move either to the capital, or if they are brave enough, move abroad.
From one hand, this saddens me because it makes me feel guilty. I feel guilty because I am struggling to build a better life for myself in a country where I can pursue and get a better, fair job that corresponds to my skills and knowledge, where I will be rewarded for my efforts, and will be able to have a comfortable life. I know that for everyone back at home, people like me seem to have it easy and I don’t deny they have it hard enough. Of course, none of these people probably has the slightest clue how it feels like to move far away from home, where you know absolutely no one, where you have zero support system, fighting every single step of that way, all on your own. I did not choose the easy way, but I chose a way. It comes with a huge cost and I decided to pay it. I simply choose a fight where I stood a chance. So I definitely did not pick the easy way out by leaving the country. But perhaps someone might rightfully blame me that I didn’t have the courage to stay, either.
But now I am accustomed to seeing people living normal lives. One of the things I appreciate most about the Netherlands is that you do not need to be a rocket scientist and know the right people in order to survive. You could very well be a shop-assistant and could still lead a normal life. Of course, you won’t be excessively rich, but it won’t be the case that you need to ration down your salary/pension/allowance so that you could afford bread maybe every other day.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not the poverty that saddens me. I was well aware how things were back at home, after all this is where I spent most of my life. And, of course, I am aware there are many many countries out there which are worse off. What bothers me is that the situation is deteriorating and there are no easy solutions. It bothers me because I understand where this desperetion comes from, and it bothers me because I am afraid it is not likely to go away soon. It bothers me because it is so immense, that its magnitude overwhelms me so that my heart starts bleeding.