In creating a new home in a new country, I realised the other day, I am in essence creating a second life. It’s all a bit James Bond-esque. If I was fighting grand-scale crime with a British accent and unlimited funds. And I realised this as I was assembling a wardrobe. The action that precipitated the realisation isn’t as unrelated as you might initially think. A wardrobe has come to be a sort of symbol in this Veränderung. A wardrobe means you have settled for a while. It means you’re no longer living out of a suitcase. It means you’re putting down roots. And as I lovingly hung up my garments in a proper, stable, all-mine-with-two-doors wardrobe in my very own, brand new bedroom, I couldn’t help but think of these new roots I am putting down – and of the old ones I have already put down, on the other side of the world. And the complexities (both charming and challenging) involved in being dual-rooted.
Starting afresh in a new country with just a suitcase and a Netbook, I have come to believe we are, contrary to zen mantras, significantly defined by our creature comforts, the things we possess because we love them and they affect our sense of happiness and security. I believe this, because without my own creature comforts around me in a place I was calling home – my quilt, my books, my vast collection of university jumpers – I had a period of feeling strange and unattached. And I immediately sought to rectify this by installing new creature comforts around me. Buying books, jumpers, big mugs for tea. Vegemite. And keeping sentimental items in plain view – hair clips, rings, an almost-empty bottle of perfume. It’s not that I am materialistic, nor do I solely define myself by my possessions – but I rely on them to remind me that I have homes, I have my own style and more than anything, I have a history. Possessions are the tangible reminders of things that, when you feel unattached, afloat, help anchor you.
Sure, I think longingly of the cocktail glasses I have in storage. And my shoes. My perfume. The photo frames, mirrors and vases, Vanity Fair magazine collection, Gavin & Stacey DVDs. All the things sitting in plastic containers, waiting for when I am ready to return to my other life and make another home. But, with my new wardrobe, a growing shoe collection and the feeling of great comfort these possessions provide, I’m quite content to continue furnishing this life. Somebody, get me to the bookstore.