Apr 9th, 2020, 04:59 PM

Don’t Take it for Granted: Finding Security in the Uncertainty

By Karl Baldacchino
Image Credit: Karl Baldacchino
*Click Click* There’s no place like home *Click Click*

If only I could have been Dorothy from Wizard of Oz these last two weeks as I went through something what I can only describe as a kind of shell shock. Okay. Maybe that is an exaggeration. However, as the last leg of my master’s programme in the summer got laid off till April 2021, I saw the plan for the next year of my life put on hold *cue cliché elevator music* My anxiety spiked because I knew I had to return back to my native country of Malta sooner than I expected, where I would have to spend another two weeks of absolute quarantine on my own, otherwise one foot out of the door means I risk a hefty fine of €10,000 if I am caught.

My remaining time in Paris was like living in Limbo; at first frantically trying to find ways to travel within Europe back to Malta, and between and after my flights got canceled just sitting around waiting. What awaited me was the unknown. For the first time in my life I had no idea what this next year was going to bring for me. I thought that I would finish my programme, find an internship or a job, stay in Paris, and start living my life in a beautiful city, away from the small-island mentality I came from. I made Paris my home. I did not want to leave, for a piece of myself was to remain here and the pandemic was eager to rip me apart from it, robbing me of the self-security I established. You could ask me: ‘But, Karl. Couldn’t you have just chosen to stay?’ Easy to ask, difficult to answer when your family wish for you to come back and it is that same family who has financially provided for your baguette and tabbouleh addiction… but also to live in Paris. Without the prospect of finding a job anytime soon in Paris, I decided not to be selfish towards my family and return. At first returning seemed like a nightmare because I removed myself from the reality that Malta is my birthplace, my home, my safety net. It has a population of nearly half a million, our language is only spoke there, and you often want to escape for the peace and quiet of solitude. After my trials and tribulations of trying to get back, however, I began to reflect back on how many things I took for granted.

Firstly, I surely took for granted the freedom of movement, highly cherished as an abstract concept of the European Union which I came face-to-face with it as my flights to Dublin and Amsterdam got canceled, or German border security stops the train to question why I am entering their country, all the while feeling like a living threat to this idea of common solidarity. CoVid-19 did not care about the Schengen zone, but Schengen be damned I made my way from Paris to Frankfurt in a day to catch the only repatriation flight back to Malta. More importantly I took for granted the people I met back in Paris whom I see as not just friends but also as family, who helped me see a future in Paris with them at my side as likely possibility. I took for granted my professors and my classes, seeing their hearts break as we got separated by our screens, and for some their work being slowly undone before their eyes. I also took for granted having the opportunity for company but chose not to take it because I needed to work. But most of all I took for granted my sense of security, not remembering that the future is something of uncertainty and our plans can only defend us so much from the unknown.

This period of time also led me to question the idea of what ‘home’ really means. Is it where your livelihood is? Where your family and friends are? Where your partner is? Where you make it to be? It can include people, a physical structure, feelings of warmth and support. For the past three years I have gone through this question because I wanted to find some place to land after the past cannon balled me into uncertainty after the death of a close family member, not knowing where and who to trust to catch me. And it does not surprise me to say that I have not found the answer to that as of yet, and maybe that is a good thing. Maybe the best option we can all give ourselves is to rely on ourselves as our own home and to find creative ways of connecting our inner selves with our surrounding. Maybe the best thing we can do for ourselves and others is to remember that as part of the human race we have faced harsher times and came back from them stronger, with a lot of love, support, and wisdom to give. This what the coronavirus has at the least led to; men and women finding merriment in one another and in their neighbors, defying the limitations of social distancing to bring comfort to one another, and learning more about how to be in touch with that other abstract concept, humanity. For the time being, maybe we can be the home that other people need to get them through this rough patch we are all equally facing, and lift one another up with our calls, messages, voices, words, letters and activities. Call it cosmopolitanism. Call it what you like. But I know that I took for granted the simple things in the grander scope of my future, and when I thought I needed them the least this year, they were there in the most surprising of ways. For now, I am in Malta, amongst my food, birds, language and people, in the descending order as per government regulations. These are the things I missed the least before all this happened, but the things I was afraid to lose the most if I did not realize their importance in bringing me to where I am at today.

I leave you, Paris and friends, in the hopes to one day return stronger and surer of how to be more present in your presence. In the meantime, for all those how wish to see what home looks like here is a view from my roof!

Image Credits: Karl Baldacchino