For 10 years I worked abroad which is an extraordinary experience for too many reasons to list in this short post.
It was educational and inspirational but perhaps the only aspect I always lamented was the fact that I ended up living in 9 different apartments during this period. I had moved many times in my life so it was not this aspect that caused me sorrow but rather the fact that none of these places ever actually felt like home.
I am a collector, and man who enjoys the comforts of home. In leaving England in 2005, aged 30, I left behind my possessions; my books, my pictures, my furniture and the many physical representations that make up 30 years worth of memories. These are the things that make a home and these are the things I missed. For 10 years I felt like a tourist.
Coming home from work never felt like really coming home. Often I would have like to finish a day’s work to come back and sit in a favourite chair and look at a favourite picture or feel the embrace of well-stocked shelves and drink from a glass that I had found at some antique fair or car boot sale. In short to be surrounded by material possessions that also had some meaning and memory in my life. The home was a secondary womb.
This is not to say that in 10 years abroad I did not add to these possessions or mental scrapbook, but there was always a feeling that a transitory life meant that the cheapest Ikea furniture made more sense or renting a furnished apartment would be more economical.
Now I am back in the UK amongst my things and I seem to have picked up a family en route with which to share the comfort of home and indeed, to build new memories. Given the richness of the experience and the fortune I have had in meeting my wife and having a daughter my years of nostalgia for the security of cherished possessions carries little real significance but it has been a motivating factor in bringing me back "home" to the UK.
However, yesterday I had a moment of clarity which made me think that perhaps divorcing myself for a period of time from all the material elements that represented my 30 years of life has actually been hugely beneficial, especially on a professional level.
Now I feel I am a more disciplined individual than when I was younger. But, given my nature, I have some doubts as to whether I would have worked as hard in the last 10 years if I had had the distractions of possessions. Because they are distractions. Shallow as it may make me seem I get an enormous amount of joy from simply existing in the same space as my possessions; from spending time looking at my books without necessarily taking one off the shelf to rifling through a box of old papers, photos and magazines.
In the last 10 years I by necessity led a more minimalist life. A lot less time was invested in such "futile" pursuits as described above and, by the same token, the opportunities were much more scarce to add to my collections. Unlike any other nation, the UK is a haven of second hand shops, bric-a-brac and antique stores.
The period apart from my own stuff probably also loosened my ties with many accumulated things and made it easier to get shot of some, to leave room physically and also emotionally for my family and for new memories.
So it was for the best that we were, for a time, separated.