Irish Times Abroad – Home


And here is the full article I wrote:

Tu es un électron libre. I leaned this French phrase for free spirit living in Morocco. People used to say it to me all the time, bewildered as they were by my decision to leave my home country and live abroad.

It called to mind a science class in third year in school, studying a Venn diagram like image of an atom, with the nucleus at its centre and all the electrons moving around, crashing into each other, knowing they had to be somewhere but not sure how to get there. They were chaotic and unfocussed, but the nucleus stood firm, rock-solid, unmoving at the centre of the cell, calm and unflinching as the electrons buzzed around it.

Moroccans weren’t convinced by my arguments of sunny winters, interest in travel, learning a language or wanting to work abroad. They simply couldn’t understand how I could leave home or why I would ever want to.

There’s a myriad of reasons why people leave home. But which home? The physical one – the house you grew up in? The geographical one – the country where you were born or the country where you were raised? The emotional one – your parents, siblings, relations and friends? The cultural one – literature, language and food? If home is the word at the centre of this complex maze, then what is home?

For me, it’s the nucleus. No matter what discipline you look to for a definition of this word; biology, chemistry, astronomy or meteorology, the nucleus is ‘the centre’ but it is in physics that the nucleus is referred to as the positively-charged centre of an atom.  If that isn’t home, what is? It’s the positively charged centre of your life. No matter where you are! Try saying ‘atom’ fast – it sounds like ‘at home’!


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