Yesterday after work I decided to go for an evening walk around Arthur’s Seat. If you don’t know what Arthur’s Seat is, it’s a mountain formed from an extinct volcano, located in Edinburgh and surrounded by beautiful Holyrood Park with many lochs (Scottish for ‘lakes’) and meadows taking part in the scenery. What makes it so special is that the mountain is located very close to the city centre. However, once you reach the Holyrood Park area, it feels like you are suddenly transported into the countryside. The effect is absolutely fascinating. 15 min away from the busy Nicolson street around Edinburgh University and you’re suddenly surrounded by stunning natural beauty, birds, bunnies and wild flowers. As if that wasn’t enough, there are many paths up and around the mountain that offer stunning panoramas of the city and the Old Town skyline from the one side, and a view descending to the North Sea and Scottish islands on the other. It’s hard enough to put it into words and my humble mobile phone pictures don’t make it any justice either.
It was an unusually warm and summery day for Edinburgh – didn’t feel like Scottish summer at all. Summer is my favourite season. As much as I’m fond of summer days, I love summer nights (now I feel like singing that song from Grease) more. When the heat is gone and the Sun is not aggressive anymore, when the soft light of the sunset paints every single path and building and flower in the most gorgeous colours, and it’s still warm enough to walk or sit down with just a light jumper on. And so I was walking and thinking and praying and I thought I’d share some of my musings with you.
It was a stressful day at work. To be honest, since I came back from my holidays 3 days ago, everyday felt really stressful at work. We’re pretty understaffed and I hardly had anytime to recover from traveling before I jumped right in the middle of things with more responsibilities and working hours than I was prepared for. As a result, I was losing my temper very quickly and some silly little things would almost bring me to tears at the end of the day. I didn’t have much time to eat or to take breaks so perhaps that added to my feeling rather forlorn.
However, this rather long walk was a very healing experience. What I thought most about on the way is the sense of safety that I seem to have lost once again since I came back from holidays at home. I moved abroad to Scotland when I was only 18 and I have never stayed back home in Lithuania for more than a month since. I had to become independent very quickly and suddenly, right after I finished school, and in some respects I didn’t do it very successfully. I realised that when I’m back home, in my native country, surrounded by my family and the culture I was born into, I feel so much safer. I feel like there’s always someone who has my back and I don’t have to be afraid of life. I have a safe haven there. This time, when I came back to Edinburgh, I felt the contrast immediately. I actually had a panic attack when my return plane was descending and I saw beautiful Scottish hills and the North Sea. I felt like an intruder and I felt unsafe.
There’s not much reason for me to feel this way. I have some close friends here and I live with people who in many respects are like family to me. I have a good job with friendly colleagues, I’m starting drama school in September and things seem to be working out pretty well for me. Nevertheless, I’m always living in fear, with strong feelings of insecurity. I feel like when I’m here I’m on my own because my family is miles away and I wasn’t born into this culture, so in some ways I will always be different here. Now, Scottish people are really lovely and welcoming to international people, and I realised the problem is not them. It’s not how they perceive me, it’s how I perceive myself perceived by them which makes me so afraid. I almost feel like I’m an intruder and at any point someone might come to me and ask me to leave saying you don’t belong here. Now, this is not grounded in reality and my actual experiences at all. One of my best friends is Scottish as well as my amazing drama coach who is extremely supportive of me. I haven’t received any negativity from locals either that would make me think this.
But I realise now I shouldn’t feel this way. The world belongs to all of us equally. It’s not ‘my country’ and ‘your country’. You can find a home anywhere you go because the world was given to you as an open book to travel and discover and live in. A lot of our negative feelings towards others and our thoughts as to how those others perceive us stem from our own insecurities and nothing else. But we have to constantly remind ourselves to remove this shroud from our faces and stop interpreting everything through our own wounded perceptions of ourselves. Open up to people, open up to the world and it’s beauty and it’s riches.
You’re not and intruder. You’re at home, wherever you are.
This is not the place that I was born in
But it doesn’t mean it’s not the place where I belong
(The Ballroom Thieves – Bees)