A friend of mine posted this on his Facebook status today: “I am coming to think that I am irretrievably lost between cultures and countries. I am a freak hybrid, fascinating species maybe but without a true community. #lostinbetween”
I immediately thought “he’s one of my tribe!” I call these people “Scatterlings” (after the Juluka song “Scatterlings of Africa“) – many of us are serial expats, truly scattered to the four winds. We may hold (or have held) multiple citizenships; we are citizens of the world, cosmopolitan and adaptable. But ask us “where is home?” or even “where are you from” and you’ll see a split-second of confusion, a shadow of loss, an acute awareness of our “otherness” before we reply with some glib conversation-starter or a question of our own.
Some of us initially scattered voluntarily, some were forced by circumstances. Some of us landed and immediately set down roots, adopting and adapting to their new home. I call these folk immigrants. The rest of us – the Scatterlings – have developed a kind of nomadic imperative; we don’t always transplant well, in spite of how easily we appear to integrate into whichever community we find ourselves, and so we often keep moving. On the most intimate level, we recognize that we can never go back “home” – that time shifts and even places we return to are not the same as when we left. So we wander, always feeling a little alienated; somewhat foreign; never quite a local. We find our way around but always with a slight sense of being lost and of having scattered bits of ourselves – willingly or otherwise – around the world.
I think many Scatterlings have learned a special kind of deflection skill as a result of our chameleon-like ability to blend into our surroundings – but because of our facility with this, we sometimes forget to stay connected to our own true identity. That can lead us to feel as though we don’t have a tribe, a community to which we are native. it can be a lonely space and my friend’s Facebook post resonated with me to the core.
I am learning, however, that there are ways to ease that kind of dis-integration that we Scatterlings have a tendency to develop. We can build community. Thankfully, technology allows us to create virtual tribes we can maintain regardless of where our restless feet may carry us. As the world grows ever smaller, and technology ever more ubiquitous, more and more of us will be initiated into the Tribe of Scatterlings and we can realize our shared experiences together. We can create a kind of “nomadic Namaste” – a recognition of the simultaneous dispersal and universal connection of each and every one of us. We can empower the ability to remain in the present that our circumstances have honed. We can find ways to honor and maintain heritage. We can develop and craft our unique, blended identity to create a new legacy and heritage.
And – as another very dear friend of mine and fellow Scatterling once pointed out – by journeying within to discover and reconcile with ourselves, we can learn to create and carry our own nation within us.