Where do you have more freedom? In the town where you grew up? Or miles away, maybe as far away as possible? And is freedom all you need?
I read a comment from Fr. Ted creator Graham Linehan today where he said in an interview that moving to London gave him a freedom he didn’t have at home, he said “I found it quite freeing that London didn’t care about me.”
I had to agree with him. I have lived in London. Moving there from small town Ireland, I loved the anonymity and the freedom that came from nobody knowing who I was or where I came from. Freedom from family and place, and all that goes with it. Freedom to try new things and re-invent yourself to a certain extent. And I still get that feeling today when I visit any big city outside of Ireland.
But, having moved back to Ireland , I have to say there are benefits to living in small town Ireland too. At my uncle’s funeral I was struck by how, when you are surrounded by extended family at a time like that, then it doesn’t matter if you are a doctor, a farmer, unemployed or a CEO. To your family, you are simply someone’s daughter, cousin, brother or sister. You have shared roots and memories. It’s the relationship that matters. You belong to and in the family regardless of what else you do.
Though I don’t live in the town where I grew up, I ran a 5km road race there recently. As I ran through town, people cheered me on by calling me by my first name. (And in come cases, calling me by my sister’s name but we will ignore that for now). I knew lots of faces in that crowd. You don’t often get that sense of belonging and community in a big city, particularly if you move there as an adult.
And therein lies the dilemma, freedom v. belonging. There are positives and negatives to both. I suppose the main thing is that you create a space where you feel at home and you build your own community no matter where you are.