Like Sand Through the Hour Glass…

When I left Savannah a year ago—the heat already unrelenting, the sweet tea still lingering on my tongue, and my heart as excited to leave as it was sad—I had no idea that I would arrive in Wellington on an auspicious day.

June 14 is otherwise unremarkable, as I knew.  I mean, aside from being Flag Day, the day on which the Falklands War ended, and Women’s Day in Iraq, the date had little relevance to me.  The obvious exception that it marked the day that I took a chance (fuelled heartily by faith and blind curiosity) and moved to the other side of the planet, notwithstanding

But as it turned out, I arrived under the auspice of Matariki.

The arrival of Pleiades (Matariki) in the morning sky marks the beginning of the Maori New Year.  It signals a shift in season, a time to come to know yourself and your whakapapa (genealogy).  It is a time to reflect on the year that was, and the year that will come.  It is about regeneration.  Reinvention.

So yes, how auspicious it was that I arrived on the date that marked the beginning of a new year and a period of reinvention.

I’ve had a lot of adventures, more lost-in-translation moments than one would think possible, moments of incredible joy, moments of heartbreak, and lots of other moments this past year.  And so, now that Matariki has come back around again, now that June 14 has come and gone, I’ve taken stock of what I’ve learned about myself this last year.

I should mention that what’s great about living some place so far removed from “home” is that the lens people see you through is vastly different.  In one place, I might be considered demure; in the other, on the decency side of brash.  (I’ll leave you to work that one out).  It’s through that lens shifting that we really come to know ourselves, I figure.  So.  Onto the “list.”

The most surprising thing I learned is that my faith is incredibly important to me.  Living in the South, religion and faith are interwoven into everything we do, socially, culturally, and even in business.  New Zealand in many ways is as far removed from this as possible.  At home, I felt like a bit of heathen.  Here, I feel like people are afraid of the real possibility that I might spontaneously break into a Hallelujah or ask if I can get an Amen.  Okay, not really.  I don’t think I’ve ever asked if I can get an Amen, nor am I likely to.  But the reality is, I have faith, and it’s stronger than I realised.

I suppose for accuracy, it bears mentioning that there is the pre-conceived idea in New Zealand that if you’re from the southeastern United States, you have a bible for every occasion.  Whenever there’s a bible question in the Dominion Post’s daily quiz, the invariable response is, “Ask Jenn.  She’s from the South.  She’ll know.”  I can’t get too upset, because I usually do know the answers, but come on!  Who DOESN’T know the deal about King Solomon and the baby??

I also learned that you can take the girl out of the South, but you NEVER take the South out of the girl.  Nothing more needs to be said.

One of the hardest things I learned is that I don’t miss home as much as I thought I would.  That’s not a reflection on my life, or my family and friends.  I think it’s just a reflection on me.  I love living abroad.  I love discovering new things.  I love the point at which I realise that we’re all the same at the end of the day.  I suspect New Zealand is the first stop in a life-long pursuit of knowledge and understanding.

It’s not as if I never get homesick or frustrated or miss the comforts of the sameness of home.  I do.  Lots of times.   The joy of discovery overrides it most days.  But there are days when all I want is a sweet tea, a biscuit with peach butter, the ease of friendships that began a decade ago (or longer), and the Savannah sunshine.

But most of all, I learned that no matter where I live, I’m still me.  My core self hasn’t changed.  I’m still Jenn.  Just Jenn.  And I hope I’ll always be that way.

Maybe it’s true that you can never go home again, but I think I finally figured out what the guy meant when he said, “Where you go, there you are.”