I feel pangs of guilt every now and then. It is not something I have done intentionally or purposefully, but still every now and then I feel as if my actions are hurting those closest to my heart. And it’s not a pleasant feeling.
As everyone who has been down my same road can tell you, leaving one’s country for a foreign one is a hard journey. Having spent the first seven years of my life in a big country like Canada and suddenly moving to a speck of a rock called Malta was something I clearly remember as if it were yesterday. I remember my old room, the huge park my parents used to take me to, the play-dates with my friends, school outings to the zoo and my babysitter who made me ‘special’ chocolate milkshake (I never found out the special ingredient, but I remember it being the tastiest thing ever!) I remember the day my father sat me down and explained to me that we were moving to Malta, which for me, at the time, meant nothing much except moving to the place where all my cousins and other relatives lived, where the weather was always hot and the sea was the bluest I had seen in my then-young life. I remember the yellow dress, which I thought resembled something Madonna wore during her Dick Tracy days in the mid-80s (I have adored that woman for a while), which I wore on the day coming to Malta. I remember entering our new house for the first time and sleeping on a small bed underneath the staircase while my bedroom was being affixed. I remember visiting Victoria with my father and looking up at the Cittadella, and remarking to him “Dad, how come that ship is all the way up there?” There was the first day of school when I started Year 3 along with two other male cousins who were my same age and whom I remember fondly taking care of me in the mini-bus ride all the way to school. I remember meeting everyone for the first time, hearing them talk a language I could only understand bits and pieces of, and gradually adjusting to my school-life. And year after year, my ‘strange’ accent slowly started disappearing and for all means and purposes Malta became my home. Canada remained my place of birth, and on the three times I had the opportunity of visiting, returning to my old street, seeing my old house and my old school and the park I loved so much, brought back lovely memories, yet at the same time I knew I would never return them to live.
Malta, Gozo precisely, became my home. People I met when I was seven remain my closest friends ever, the ones I hold dearest to my heart to this day. Living in a small village, with two other uncles living on the same road and popping in to visit nearly every day, became the norm. Meeting up at my grandmother’s house for lunch every Saturday became a tradition of sorts. Waiting for my friends to come for me every day to go to mass, music lessons or simply walking around our village, became a routine. And a tad claustrophobic the older I grew. For the same people I met when I started going out, are the same people I see today, nearly fifteen years later, when I am in Gozo. We’re all older, some married, some with children, some have changed beyond recognition and others are lucky enough to have the same youthful appearance about them. In a way we have all grown old together, even if some of us are still strangers to this day.
Going to university expanded my horizons, at least for five days a week. There, I discovered a world bigger than Gozo, where my flat-mate and I (we shared the whole university experience together and is one of my best friends to this day) learnt that with this newfound sense of liberty came responsibility. We grew as people, and the whole experience helped shape our character and develop us into the people we are today. We still laugh at some episodes we had at the time, we remember our desperate selves during exam times, and marvel at some outrageous things we did then, which our older selves can only reminisce about. All in all they were a wonderful six years of my life.
Now I’m married, entered into a new phase of my life, have a new residence and about to embark on a new roll-coaster of a ride I am fascinated yet scared by. Which I wholly love. I love this beautiful city which I now call home, its’ history, the people, the safety I feel walking down its’ streets and the welcoming city walls which encompass an antique yet modern place. I love the polite nature of its’ inhabitants, the gentle way of talking and interacting with strangers. I love the life I lead here, the people I have met, known and become close to, and the tight bond I have with A since we are now each other’s life in this place. I have grown much more independent here than ever before, and most of all learnt that life is not all about me. I now have, and hopefully will further have, more people to whom I bear responsibility, respect and love.
But the guilt I mentioned in the beginning pops in every now and then whenever I talk and think about my mother. I know she misses me, and I miss her terribly, yet at the same time I know that this is my life and I have never regretted the decision I took and I would do everything exactly as I chose to do it last summer if the same opportunity came along. And because of this, I respect her a million times over knowing she has never ever, not even once, questioned my decision or asked me to reconsider not moving here to England when I first told her all about the plan. I know she misses sharing the daily pleasures that my pregnancy is bringing along with it. The baby will be her first grand-child after all. We talk and message each other all the time, and I try and visit the speck whenever I can, which although is not the same as meeting up everyday, it’s the best we both can do at the moment, and although short, each visit is full of lovely moments. Strangely enough, although apart we have grown closer in a way we were not before. I have learnt to treasure her words which make perfect sense to me today, unlike a couple of years ago when her advice was mostly unwelcome. I appreciate her way of doing things, of allowing me to make my decisions and offering advice when I need it. So we may be mostly apart these days, but I have never felt as close to her as I do now.
Both A and myself knew from the get-go that this move to England would not be a permanent one. As much as we have often talked about the claustrophobic dot that is Gozo, about its’ limitedness and small area, about the annoying ways of the know-it-alls and close-minded people who live there, we miss it and we have always known that in the end, Gozo will be our final destination.
So at the moment I am enjoying my life here, a life I sincerely never thought I would have, having never ever thought of emigrating away from everything I knew. My parents often talked about how leaving Malta for a larger land helped them develop as persons, partners and parents, and I can now fully understand that. I have been here for only seven months, yet in a way as if I have been here forever, and my life in Gozo seems in the past.
So my mantra is to enjoy the present. To live each day uniquely because it will never be again. To appreciate everyone I meet and learn from their experiences. To love and respect those who deserve it. And mostly to be happy. Because after all, being happy with your present is the most important thing ever.