In November 2017, the life I’m living now was a daydream, one I came up with on the last day of a holiday to San Sebastián.* I was walking on the boulevard overlooking La Concha bay, thinking, what if I didn’t have to go home this evening? What if I had my laptop and could work from here? How would I make friends? Would I take up running, like the people on this boulevard? Even if I haven’t run since school and even then only because I was forced to. But here, I suddenly feel like I might want to try…
I let the thought go and boarded my flight back to London, got on with life and forgot that I might one day go swimming every day of the year, run on Mirakontxa like a local.** But when I unexpectedly had to leave my flat in London and spent some months living at home, with the item: look for a room, forever on my to-do list, I felt a weird sense of discombobulation. Though I was already living in London, I couldn’t picture myself there anymore. Couldn’t imagine myself commuting there, working there, dating there, spending there, following the latest twists and turns of Brexit, there. I lived for my work, nights out with friends, chats with my mum at her kitchen counter, but in the end, it wasn’t enough. For better or worse, I’m a dreamer and when my sense of possibility about a place dries up, I have to go.
National identity is another factor: being ethnically Greek Cypriot and culturally European, I’ve never really felt British. There are things I’ve never understood, such as why is the national anthem about saving one rich nonagenarian and why does the world stop when one of her offspring marry, breed or even just appear? I mean, I understand such things in a factual sense, but feel no sense of belonging in the facts. And now, with Brexit a near-reality and the reassertion of a cultural identity that’s never been mine, it’s time to nurture parts of me that I’ve repressed, while I’ve been in London. I keep thinking of that blue scallop-shaped bay, the little island in the middle and remember that I’ve wanted to live by the sea ever since I was a teenager. I seek out people I can practice my Spanish with and recall that being multilingual has been part of my identity ever since I could speak. Still, it’s hard to leave home. On the one side you have networks, history, trodden ground; on the other you have uncertainty and hope.
I came back to San Sebastián, in February and June 2018 and once again in September, just to get it out of my system. But by October, I happened to find an apartment and decided I was going to begin making a life for myself here. I still have to take up running, though…
* I apologise to anyone who was mislead by my opening sentence, which sounds a bit like one of those ‘get rich and emigrate’ posts you see on YouTube. But here’s the thing, an EU passport means that you can enjoy the basic privileges of any smug prick on the internet: the sea view without the penthouse apartment, the glass of good wine without owning the vineyard. An EU passport gives you the freedom to move and work and try things out for a while. That’s why I’m taking measures to make sure that I still have one, after March 29th!
** San Sebastián/ Donostia, is a city with two names and two languages, Spanish and Basque. I’m going to use Spanish and Basque names interchangeably, to reflect my experience of getting to know the city. Mirakontxa is a Basque name.
This is the first in a series of posts about moving from London to Donostia/ San Sebastián, a small city on the Basque coast. Feel free to comment, like or share!