It’s one of those tantalising almost-spring mornings as I’m bundled along by my trusty Jack Russell on our daily walk near the creek. It’s an icy wind that goes through your bones, but the sun glistens on the water and the birds swoop and play on their little patch. It’s become your little patch now too, its contours, colour and delightful chaos a welcome respite from the madness of modern life. You pick up the pace and suddenly stop to admire the majesty of this tiny suburban parkland. Breathe. You’ve arrived.
I’d like to offer a few thoughts to those South Africans who have emigrated, or who are contemplating making the big move. If you have chosen to remain in the country, that’s fine as well-perhaps this brief piece may offer a new perspective. People leave their country of birth for many different reasons. For example, our family left before the political changes in 1994, due to having relatives already settled here. Despite the diversity of ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors, there’s one thing all emigrants agree on: it’s not easy. But then who said anything worthwhile was easy?
Most South African arrivals to my country are smart, hardworking and ambitious. They establish themselves quickly, ensuring financial success without much difficulty. Sadly, however, we take ourselves wherever we go. And good ol’ SA leaves no-one, but no-one, unscathed. So when the fresh-faced newbie arrives on our shores, little does he know what perils await. Things are apparently going well, but something’s gnawing away on the inside. As time goes on, he begins to remember the good times back home. Everything here is so different. Racked by anxiety and doubt, he conjures up a vision of how wonderful life was under African skies. Everything here is so ordinary, so common. Retreating into the familiarity of the past, he clutches feverishly at his memories as he bitterly reflects on the shortcomings of his old and new countries. Little does he know that “wherever you go, there you are”.
Happiness is, folks, not a product of emigration. Many good things are, of course. Like safety, opportunity and being part of a progressive, compassionate society. Your happiness, however, depends on how well you know yourself from the neck up, and your ability to change. Emigration? I heartily recommend it. There’s a whole world out there, people. Be bold. Your ancestors were. How can we make the transition as smooth as possible? I guess being humble would be at the top of my list, because this makes it easier for us to change ourselves to adapt to a new home. Be open and accept your new country the way it is. Enjoy the new experiences. Be mindful of the simple joys of taking a bike ride or going for a walk, or feeling completely safe and secure. Make an effort to participate and integrate into your neighbourhood. Most of all...breathe. You’ve arrived.