Tuesday marked the end of what I like to call my "pity month": a month spent in Olbia, my home town, my no man's land as I waited to move from one life to the next. I'm a 23-year-old Italian who chose to study and work in London. Now, nearly five years later, I have just touched down in Sydney to start again. I have officially become a double expat.
One of the things that made April a pity month was the sinking feeling I really didn't have a home. It's been said that my generation might never even own one: according to CNBC, "Millennials are the first generation to come of age in a post-almost-apocalyptic housing market". I've lost count of all the times I've read that we're the 'screwed generation', earning less than our parents, working more and coping with more debt. But right now I feel that being a Millennial might just help me face another tough move further away from the people I love.
I've left a country I called home twice and I've couchsurfed across a continent, making a home out of my suitcase. I've left a guitar and some bedsheets in London; some real good shoes in Cuba; a lifetime of books and DVDs in Sardinia and some clothes and even more books in the US. I've learnt that you have to let go of things, people, feelings, and that's just how it is: it hurts like hell, but it gives you a lot in return.
I've become a cross between an interior designer and a nomad. My things may have probably travelled as much as I have, but expatriating twice gave me enough skills to make a home out of nothing... And to pack it up and start again.
Italian Kingdom, a website for Italians in London, summarised what being an expat is like in 2016 in their new manifesto: "We believe that the Internet is a fertile land for a community that goes beyond geography and beyond an over 300-year-old idea of social frontiers. It's a digital country with a 'glocal' community, a sum of all the existing local characteristics made of people from all over the world working together."
It's ironic that the Internet, globalisation and the decline of social borders coincide with the threat of a possible Brexit, of a crumbling Europe and of never-ending migration restrictions. I've learnt so much from being an expat and I've given so much of my work (and money, love, pain, everything) to countries other than my own that seeing politics tear the world apart scares me.
Being a double expat taught me that leaving is not about brain drain, health tourism or climbing some other country's ladder to make it easier for yourself. It's about leaving, giving, taking and creating. You leave your love, your things, a country behind. You give part of your energy, your skills and your love in return for that country's hospitality. You take new skills, new opportunities and new customs in. You create a new mix of cultures, skills, customs, habits that make the place you leave and the place you live in unique.
I was recently asked to write a bio, and I had to stop and start again because I was just making it too long. The places I've left behind have given me so much I just wanted to say it, because I felt no one would understand me without mentioning them. Writer Tayie Selasi said it all in her 2014 TEDTalk: "All of us are multi -- multi-local, multi-layered. To begin our conversations with an acknowledgement of this complexity brings us closer together, I think, not further apart."
Whoever said that home is not where the heart is didn't know what he/she was talking about. Even when you're a single expat, you leave so many people, so many places behind that your heart is more like a Horcrux. It has been split in many pieces, at least as many as the lives and the places you've lived in.
Forgive the Harry Potter analogy, but many Millennials grew up with J.K. Rowling's books, so inevitably I had to translate being an expat into magical terms. And sure, Horcruxes might not have worked out too well for Voldemort, but being "multi" doesn't have to be a bad thing. When I left the USA after two months of Couchsurfing I got a small tattoo of a birdhouse behind my ear: you can have many homes, many friends, many lives. Leaving them sucks. But it's 2016: you're never really leaving.
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