Caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare current...

Horace’s observation captivated something in me last summer as I prepared for the move to Beirut; he expressed what I hoped for.  There is, in any movement, the possibility that what once was might not be anymore, that something of the known will be scraped off, possibly lost, replaced by the new, but still lost.  It’s a healthy process, one which can be self-created if one is willing to do a bit of work, and while I was not resistant to it in sum, I knew there were some things I wasn’t willing to lose.  Friends asked if I would keep the same routines (I didn’t know), if I thought the relocation would change my perspectives (I hoped so), if it would, generally asked with more caution, change the core of who they knew me to be (a possibility but I hoped not).

Travel, movement, is tricky to that regard.  We all have the freedom to talk the absolute best, sometimes most convoluted, game we can conjure up, project every conceivable hope and “what if” onto a new location, and bask in the “oohs” and “aahs” of our pre-travel listeners.  The post-benefit is that at the end of the day, no one but us knows if anything we projected really was as cool or out there as we said it would be.  I think it is an allure of travel, perhaps though on a more subconscious level and speaking to a larger reality: our projections and surmising of adventures are not without underlying motivation.  (I recently read an author who, to his credit, had the humility to own that part of his motivation for volunteering at an orphanage while trekking was that the telling of such aspirations would make it easier to pick up girls at bars.)

If travel affords projection with a safety net, relocation offers an additional, some might say bonus-laden, layer.  In relocation, to a place where one is unknown, there is the possibility for a complete overhaul.  The implicit rules are gone as are the constraints of how one is known; a new identity can be assumed.  I didn’t feel the need for such measures in preparing for Beirut but played with the idea none the less.  It is an interesting concept, one I think which shakes some sense of certainty in most people.  At the end of the day, it seems we all find some comfort in our “knowns” be they familial, religious, ethnic, or any other factor of identity.  To really, consciously dismember our self in such a profound way is not a venture many take on.  Sure, we play at it, but few really completely disassociate.

Beirut wasn’t, and isn’t, about an overhaul for me.  If anything it brought into question quite a few of my own projection laden rants.  I was the girl always checking itinerary ideas, whose journal sounded off on possible ventures, whose family and friends were very, very patient with many verbalized musings of travel and adventure.  Beirut was the chance to make all the talk a reality and in that, before I had even stepped on a plane, called all that projecting into question.  Was it real?  Or was I merely playing at a notion based in, well, nothing?  My ego hoped it wasn’t the latter, and the realist knew I would need to come to find out.

Almost eight months in, it seems my best answer is that I’m still sorting an answer.  And, I’m okay with waiting, sitting with the unknown a bit longer.  What I can speak a bit more definitively to is Horace’s take on relocation.  The soul, at least one which has been considered, not ignored or allowed to fill up with other’s projections, does not change, and, perhaps, it becomes better known, or so I am finding in this sabbatical-like season.

One such nuance…  I was asked the other day how I was liking life in inner-city Beirut.  It was, I think, meant as a simple, polite question yet, unbeknownst to the questioner, was loaded for me.  My honest answer, I went on to explain, always tends to feel too harsh.  I cannot fault the city necessarily.  Rather, what I have come to appreciate, is that the concrete and bustle are not a fit for me; instead I crave the mountains, the outdoors.  One nuance of many as my soul, my core, remains, is known more.