New City, New You – or New City, Real You?

There is something liberating and strangely peaceful about moving to a place where you do not know a soul, and nobody knows you.  People tell me that you can be whatever you like, then.  Reinvent yourself – that all too trendy phrase.  My experience, since moving to Norwich (where I got off the train not knowing anyone at all), last February, has not been so much of becoming a new me, as of starting to discover the original me.

IMG_0643Sadly, I cannot be “whatever I want to be”.  What I want to be – or wish I were – is for ever eluding me, in spite of my efforts.  Certainly, if I could mould my personality to my liking, I would have a different one from the one I am lumbered with.  In London, Norwich or Brussels, it is still me.  What I have found priceless, in a new city that still feels so strange, is the slow but steady discovery of who I am and what I want.  I think it gets to a stage, when you spend too long in the same place, where your pattern of behaviour becomes one of reacting, rather than acting.  If you spend too long somewhere, the inevitable repetition, or routine, of your daily life fixes you in a kind of mould.  People get used to your pattern of behaviour and start making assumptions about you.  Assumptions you do not want to disappoint for fear of losing your place on the social grid (better in a bad place than nowhere, right?).  So you make sure you stick to your pattern.  That, in turn, can stop you from meeting new people who could form a new and different opinion of you – and from altering your own opinion of yourself.  Eventually, you are no longer sure if you are doing things because you want to do them or because it is part of what is expected of you – expectations you are actually working hard to maintain just as they are.  It is a vicious circle that keeps going ‘round and ‘round.  In a way, you become still.  Motionless.  You sprout roots which, over time, reach further into the soil, and become tangled around large rocks.  Secure.  Impossible to pull out unless you cut down the tree.  Except that you are not a tree.  You were born with legs, for walking.  And, surely enough, you can sometimes lose track of what it is you really want and are (not that anyone really knows that one).  Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello had a theory that we exist only in function of other people’s perception of us.  Typically Pirandellian in its bleakness but he does have a noteworthy point there.

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In a new city, you do not have the pressure of remembering the lines of your role.  There is no one around you to pick up the cues, anyway, so you can devise a new script.  There is no one to give any new acquaintances you make a potted biography of you by way of introduction, so your new acquaintances are given the rare freedom of making up their own minds about you, without outside influence.  Similarly, you have the luxury of the same freedom.  You can even start thinking differently about yourself.  Oh, look – I had no idea I liked that.  I didn’t know I could do that.  In a new city, where you have not yet fixed a routine, you walk more slowly, you look around, you allow yourself to hear new sounds rather than listen out for ones you expect.

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Perhaps it is this state of reduced expectations (in the sense of preconceptions) that leaves room for surprise and awe.  And I do not mean awe in the misused and abused sense that US and now British teenagers (and now, infuriatingly, so many adults) give it when they say that a film or pair of jeans is awesome (I could weep!).  I mean the ability of being overwhelmed, swept off your feet by surprise before something that fills you with respect and wonder.  I think for as long as you can feel awe, you are alive.

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In a new city, since you do not have a road to follow, so you have to find new stones to build another one.  So you can, once again, enjoy the creative process of building, with all the stress, hardship but also dreams and hopes that come with it.

Scribe Doll

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16 Responses to New City, New You – or New City, Real You?

  1. What beautiful pictures (I’m assuming of Norwich)! And yes, I think you’re right about reacting rather than acting. I think too that what happens is that we internalize the things we think (however correctly or incorrectly) that others think of us, and then we get in the habit of REACTING (as you say) by behaving as they would expect–that is, we take our life scripts from them instead of encouraging them to encounter us as we are or think we would like to be. But it sounds as if you are testing your wings there now, and I think that’s all to the good. Have fun!

  2. Anna says:

    Amazing text and amazing thoughts. You have the wonderful ability to put into words what other people think but cannot express so vividly and precisely. Really,to know the original self you have to go to another place and start your life anew. I did not do it.But other people do. Sometimes I envy them. Sometimes I think I’m comfortable here as I am. I wish you: be the original you, find new stones, enjoy building, and through hardships, dreams and hopes bring this awe and creativeness to us, your readers!

    • scribedoll says:

      Thank you very much, Anna. Not everyone needs to go move to a new place in order to discover what s/he wants. I, in turn, envy people who are not forced to move as much as I have done :–)

  3. Your reflections here resonate with me in ways I had not expected. How perceptive of you to recognize both the trap of the familiar and the insight the unfamiliar may afford. Thank you for sharing your thoughts (and lovely photos) on this portion of the journey — I find I often see myself differently in the light of your musings.

    • scribedoll says:

      “I find I often see myself differently in the light of your musings”… I hope in a good way!

      Thank you so much for reading, and for your kind comment.

  4. evanatiello says:

    I remember the owner of a nursery once telling me, before I replant something that’s been growing in a pot, I should trim or tear into the root ball. That it will promote growth and help the plant to florish even more than it would have in the pot. Trimming your roots may end up not being such a bad idea. Much continued luck to you Katia.

  5. denizsezgun says:

    Your last two posts now drag me into a series of decisions to move from south of Turkey to my city – Istanbul. I think I am going to do it very soon!

    • scribedoll says:

      Oh, no, please, I would hate to be responsible. Why? Is Istanbul better than where you are now?

      • denizsezgun says:

        I think I want to raise my son in a metropol where the worst and the best sit next to each other. Just like myself once upon a time.. Musicals, theatres, public transportation and the joy of long reading in buses and boats in the middle of Bosphorus before the mist clears away early in the mornings..

      • scribedoll says:

        I wish you and your son a wonderful, colourful, and safe life – wherever you decide to live.

  6. Miss Y says:

    Hi there, I’ve nominated you for the inspiring blogger award. Please feel free to accept (or not). Thanks! http://atrillionmiles.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/blogger-award/

  7. Hami in Japan says:

    I’ve been catching up on your posts for the last hour (I’ve been neglecting the blog world for the last month) and I understand where you are coming from with this.

    I moved away from the UK just over 3 years ago to live in Japan. It put in a place where I knew no one, and no one knew me. For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a proper understanding of who I am.

    I think it helps getting away from people who know you. Not just because of the assumptions they make of you, but also because they try to shape you into what they want you to be. Moving here has helped me break away from my parents who spent so much of my younger years trying to shape me into someone I really wasn’t.

    People in Japan have accepted me for who I am. Its the first time this has ever happened. And its given me the confidence to be myself whenever I go home, and the power to stand up to those who would alter me to please themselves.

    For the first time in my life, I know who I am, and I’m happy.

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