This isn’t one of those letters where I first list what’s wrong in our relationship and then go on to say that despite those problems we’re still good or whatever. I mean, yes, but when we dig deeper it’s choppy waters for us. I want to be honest about that. Just for today I want to shed the two semi-true pretences (or semi-false realities?) that I’ve unintentionally built up over the past sixteen years:
1. That I understand you because I know something of your politics
2. That you are the absolute best and there’s nowhere else I feel more at home
It was easy to write your birthday cards in the past. You were the damsel in distress that I wanted to rescue from Evil Harper. I wrote, as I am prone to do, about your political and societal problems. I focused on the past and the present in the macro, because macro was what I could access via the internet thousands of miles away. Micro, on the other hand – on the ground, interpersonal, individuals – this was very far away from me.
It pains me to say that I don’t know you. I mean, not really. Not intimately. What I know about your people and your psyche (Zeitgeist?) is either secondhand or obtained during the short durations of time I’m actually there. It’s an uncomfortable truth to admit, especially as I play the role of your ambassador every day. People abroad ask me things about you, Canada, and I’m expected to know because I represent you. But I don’t know you as well as I’d like. I need to renew my understanding of what your everyday looks like, what people are talking about, how to conduct oneself. I happen to know a lot more about your politics than my average compatriot – one of the few positive side effects of a decade of Harper doing his level best to run the country into the ground – but that’s only one of your many sides.
As to whether you’re the best? Don’t get me wrong: you are awesome. I sing your praises every day and mean every word. There are a hundred things you do better than any other country. But the elephant in the room is the simple fact that I have, of my own accord, spent the past six years away. There’s gotta be a reason for that. Do I still consider you home? Yes. Do I feel at home with you? No. When I’m with you I feel like an outsider. That’s not a knock on either of us; I’ve simply adapted myself such that I align more with my current surroundings and less with you. I’m afraid that through this process I’ve lost some of my Canadianness. (The most concrete manifestation of this is perhaps the loss of my right to vote.) This is a natural consequence of living abroad, of course, but it means that the sigh of relief I breathe upon arriving ‘home’ after a long flight is not on your side of the Atlantic. Another uncomfortable truth to admit. And assuming I’m a rational animal, it follows that you can’t be the absolute best because under current circumstances I chose – choose – somewhere else to be.
None of my confused feelings about you are intense enough to draw conclusions from (or to romanticise into a more poetic, less rambly piece!). All they do is raise inconvenient questions that I push aside until a day like today.