THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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My worldviews broadened up and now I was not fitting any longer into the Lithuanian realm. It made me feel lost and confused…
By Rugilė Šablinskaitė
Brussels - Belgium
For many years I have been questioning where my home is. It is quite tricky to define home in this globalized, rapidly moving world where people are so used to traveling and changing their locations within the matter of hours. However, home is this important place where we find security, inner peace and get out of our turtle’s armor. We all unconsciously constantly seek to have home where we could come back after exhausting day at work and feel naked to the deepest corners of our soul. Just be. Ourselves. And say.. I am at home.
I left Lithuania when I turned 18. Inspired by my mother’s stories of her youth years in a new city with new people, I also wanted to experience this time of “golden student years” – shots of her stories were constantly running through my mind, sounding like the best fairytales for kids that inspire one for life full of unknown and exciting discoveries. Being from Vilnius (the dearest city to my heart till this very day), the only option I saw for myself was moving outside of Lithuania (who would change Vilnius for any other city in Lithuania? – I already felt I lived in the heart of it). So, my chosen destination was the UK. There, for the first time in my life I felt homesick. For the first time I realized the weight and the value of the word Motherland (or Fartherland, if you prefer). I learnt about the significant cultural differences, systems of values, traditions, etc. And I started missing something ‘mine’ (and as the great thinker B.Anderson puts it, I fell into the trap of imagined community as nation “is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion”...). When Skyping with my mother, she first started calling my changing feelings and worldviews nationalistic till it turn into a bit of chauvinistic ones. I impatiently waited for my holidays in Lithuania to come, to unite again with ‘likeminded’ (the idea that was planted and already deeply rooted in my soul by the time passing by) people, my fellow countrymen... However. When I got back to Lithuania, unfortunately, no miracle happened. After spending time in the UK, silently my worldviews broadened up and now I was not fitting any longer into the Lithuanian frameworks. It made me feel lost and confused. This confusion resulted in Bachelors dissertation on the role of national identity in a foreign country. And the research results showed that people feel differently about it. For some it’s more important, for some less, while some are completely unaware of it... And so I continued on searching for my place under the sun.
While living for a year in Mexico, I got to learn how deeply I am able to embrace another distant culture. I fell unconditionally in love with it. And it became a big part of me and my life. The experiences there enriched me, taught me to be open, giving, touchy and enthusiastic about the smallest things in the world. I was fascinated by the simplicity of the people - coming from a privileged environment, I felt most warmly welcomed despite my background or situation. Every time I meet a Mexican nowadays, I feel enthusiastic and it feels like meeting a part of me. I remember my Christmas Eve there... The first time I was not able to be with my family, the first time I saw no sparkling snowflakes falling down around me. Silently apart from all that mattered to me and was so dear to the heart. And I was simply not able to tell aloud anyone about the way I felt. So I figured out, I will just stay home alone, making jams from local fruits and fulfill my time writing letters to beloved ones. Then my Mexican Friend appeared on the doorway. Unexpectedly. She said she came to pick me up and I was going to eat dinner with her family with no excuses. As for me Christmas Eve has always been about this magic unspoken peace you find around once per year and family, I found it hard at that moment. But then we came to her place that was so... First thing I noticed and I could not deny it was Love. When you can actually feel love in the air and you feel touched by it in every possible way. Her family was amazing. It brought tears to my eyes when I saw how they live... The conditions were really tough. Nothing compared to the place I was renting. I felt guilty... People who had so little were willing to share with me every single piece they had (and who were I to them?...). And they were so happy. Curious about me. Giving. When simple is beautiful (and here I find the word ‘beautiful’ just grey because you simply cannot imprison that feeling I got into any possible word created on this planet..). When a hand holding you strongly, makes you feel like home. And I was home.
Different countries, different cities, different people. After years spent in the UK, life in Sweden and Germany was a completely different experience. I stopped focusing on the differences between the cultures, constant search for my place and identity but rather I started fully enjoying the time with people that I could share quality time with not leaving gaps open for the doubts. And despite various differences I could see daily, I absolutely enjoyed living in different environments. Daily discoveries that make Life fascinating and exciting. When we can learn from each other rather than judge and compare. Give than wait to be given. Smile rather than turn the eyes away. Love and embrace.
Very important thing I learnt when travelling. Home is an idea. Home is a feeling. We can live in broken shapes anywhere. But these are our friends and family that create the feeling of home. Flats, houses, same as money, come and go. We can change them even though we get psychologically attached to physical locations. But these are only locations... I feel home under the apple tree in my village, by the river where you have the beautiful view of Lithuanian forests same as I feel home in Brussels running in the park through the autumn leaves.. I have parts of me all over the world – people who are dear and precious to me, with whom I feel home. And while now I live in Brussels, I feel home here – I tamed this place and I have people to whom I want to hold on, people who touched my heart in the most fragile and precious ways. People who are the gifts of Life no money could ever buy. It is one of the many homes I have. I am in love with the city, with its people, with what I do. My nationality is and always will be Lithuanian but today I consider myself a world citizen. And I have come only to one conclusion that... Home is where our heart is.
Home is where our heart is J
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