On the morning of Friday 24 June 2016, I was awakened by my clock radio, announcing in self consciously stentorian tones that “Britain has voted to leave the European Union.”
Normally slow to rouse to daylight consciousness, that announcement certainly woke me up quick smart. “No” I yelled at the radio. “No, no, no!!!”
I had thought that it would be a close run thing, but that we would remain. Yet the electorate had chosen otherwise…
It was a shock to the system. Not what I had chosen. An unwanted and unwarranted change forced upon me.
I felt many things… Fear, anger, grieving, and guilt… I never spoke out publically about my own views that Britain should remain in the EU. In amongst all my friends and acquaintances, only one person close to me was openly choosing to Leave. I wished now that I had tried to persuade them otherwise and that I had spoken out on social media and swayed may be one vote – or a thousand. But I decided not to get involved. I knew my mind was made up, I assumed I knew the outcome… so I stayed out of it. But now it is done, I’m moved to write in order to make sense of it all.
My own choice to remain comes partly from a Quixotic, confused lineage and life loved…
My mother was Scottish. She had ancestors from the Shetland isles and all across that land. She had English and Irish ancestors thrown in for good measure too and lived most of her life in England; yet if you asked her about nationality – she most definitely set herself apart with her born identity. It was her father had decided that he, his wife and 18 year old daughter should leave Scotland though and she always felt that this was a change that was forced on her.
My father was born in the fens of Cambridgeshire. His surname came from the Norman invaders of this island and his father’s family had farmed the land for countless generations. He was always solidly anchored to the ground. His mother however, came from a travellers family, with a diverse background, including Welsh and Romany affinities and this strand has given myself and several of my relatives, very itchy travelling feet…
And so my genetic smoothie means that I am a mild mongrel, but most definitely a British one.
I grew up and played with children whose parents had bought them to these British shores to live, learn and earn. I had Indian, Italian, Irish, Scottish and Jamaican neighbours and regardless of genetics, as the children of diverse origin – we played the same games that all children play. We laughed in gardens, we imagined in parks, we sat sedately in sheds, creating clubs and secret societies that we all belonged to.
My parents were involved in an ideological movement called Moral Re-Armament (now morphed into Seeds of Change), so from babyhood I was wheeled off to conference centres around the country to meet people from all over the world. As a teenager I spent my summers volunteering in their kitchens, feeding armies of people from all over the globe who wanted to change the world for good. I met so many nationalities from so many corners of the earth. I had room mates from Germany one week, South Africa the next, then Canada and so on and etc…
We talked over dinner and wandered around ornate gardens and in doing so I heard so many stories which showed me that where people really come together in positive, united purpose, then a life, family or community could change for the better.
I’ve worked for multi-national corporations and had to manage global intricacies and misunderstandings many times over. I’ve been yelled at by American managers, berated by Portuguese compatriots and huffed at by Indian colleagues because of unseen and newly chartered cultural differences – on both sides. I’ve negotiated with and canvassed French, Spanish, Polish, Canadian offices and officials – and more besides, over and again. And at times all this was irritating, but mainly it was fascinating.
My global idealism has meant that over the years I’ve had friends of many nationalities. Two of my very closest friends are Indian in origin. Several of my other friends, who come from European countries, said that it was rare that they had British compadres – that the opportunities to bond and create cross national friendships just didn’t happen. I was always jarred by that thought. I have always welcomed the windows that are opened into my knowledge by having a diverse circle around me. It makes me more open, it gives me perspective and so I embrace it.
I don’t always understand where my friends are coming from, but still I get to enjoy the discussions which investigate and celebrate our differences.
I have always believed in diversity and the wealth of expanded knowledge and points of view that goes with it. I do not always enjoy being challenged, but I allow myself to be and so I consider all points of view, whilst still having my own very strong ones. I strongly believe in community and coming together – together is most definitely stronger in my book. I believe in inclusivity for all and yet I believe in individuality and creativity too. The sort of success I enjoy is built on mutual support, love and team work.
I will, innately trust most people, but I will also remove that trust suddenly and sharply if I feel I’m being attacked or threatened in any way, including verbally.
And when it comes back to who I am, here and now, I can’t give you a simple definition, so I’ll present you with a list instead:
* I’m a citizen of the world – and I couldn’t give a toss if that sounds like a cliché.
* I’m European and always will be. That’s regardless of any political technicalities.
* I live in the United Kingdom. The united part of that is important. That may change…
* I’m British. On my passport and in many – but not all, forms of belief and behaviour.
* I’m English. Born here, live here. It informs who I am, but is not the whole picture.
* I’m Scottish. Less than 50% as it happens, but it is part of who I am too.
One day, if Scotland separates from the UK, it may be that I could choose, having a Scottish parent – to have Scottish nationality. It’s a strange thought. It’s also a consideration…
And some of the items on this list are bureaucratic labels and some are choices…
But enough now of all my woolly liberalising!
I have to deal with the facts as they are: I’m a grown up. I live in a democracy. A majority of voters have voted to leave the European Union. Whilst I felt that I had no choice about this change, I DO actually have a choice here – to bemoan and berate and beat my chest, or to accept what has happened, and make my peace with it.
I’m not a politician or an economic forecaster and I don’t know how this will all pan out. But it is happening. It will be moved on, worked through and worked out. It will have pros and it will have cons. My feeling discombobulated or shouting and pouting it will not change anything. I’ve weathered the fear of change before and I’m still standing, so I will again.
I’ve decided that I can be sad for a while and then let it go and choose to move on with what ever comes. It won’t necessarily be a smooth journey from here on in, but I’m going to suck it up and accept it, anyway – whilst in all honesty – most probably having a quiet moan about it…
I won’t let it affect how I behave or treat other people. That some are apparently perpetrating acts of racism and hatred on the back of this vote is an outrage. I choose to believe that this is a mere minority, out to get media coverage, incite others and using this only as an excuse to profligate their vile acts of violence. There are such people in every corner of the world. The referendum result has not caused or allowed this, it is simply the warped choice of some who choose to act in hatred and bile.
I choose to influence what and who I can in my own sphere and let the bureaucrats and politicians in the system work out the paper bound aspects of my existence. Somehow, out of all this rank confusion, they will. They have to.
Ultimately I will take responsibility. I live in this country. I vote. I’m part of the system. I know that I have actively been seeking change in my life for some time now and sometimes that has been painful, joyful or interesting… So change has come, not in the way I envisaged, but I am responsible for the result, regardless. My response is a choice. If I take that stance I am strong – not victimised and not looking at my fellow man and judging him because he doesn’t see things my way.
The world is changing and I can fight that or I can work with it. Many people I know are seeing this as a new opportunity and embracing a new wave, whether they voted to Leave or Remain. I respect that positivism and I see it as a way forward – a way to reassess and reinvent.
I don’t want to lose friendships and relationships with people and countries I love because we are no longer connected by the stars on the EU flag, so that choice is made. This just means that I will continue with my individual connections and collaborations, which is more important to me, any way.
For the time being I’m deliberately avoiding all the post election hoo-ha, ranters and haters, and siding with those who provide considered, quiet counsel. I can choose that too. I am having my say now and I trust that this touches you too, if you are reading this, where ever and who ever you are and where so ever you are from.
A couple of days ago, my French friend Claire texted me: “I’m packing my bags” she said.
“They won’t let you back in” I replied, “you’ve been away too long.” It was a small smile, but an important one – what ever is going on in the world, we get to choose irony, laughter and friendship too…
So I’ve chosen again and I know I will have to keep doing so. This choice is not a one off act of reaction. One blog isn’t going to change me or the world. But it will certainly support my stance and remind me of the true nature of being English / Scottish / European and (you’ve guessed it), most importantly of all, of being myself.
With love, laughter and learning,
European Mongrel, Transient Goddess, Coach and Author
I’m also variously known as:
* The award winning Author of Peachey Letters – Love Letters to Life and Co-Author of The F-Factor. You can buy them both at Amazon by clicking on the highlighted titles / hyperlinks above, and at all good book sites around the globe.
* The Director of LifeWork Consultancy & Coaching – find out more here…
* As an International Book Awards Finalist – 2015, Women’s Issues Category
* The Winner of a Women Inspiring Women Award – 2013
* As being shortlisted for Women’s Coach in the APCTC Awards – 2014, as well as being nominated in 2012 & 2013
* Also as being Nominated for a Networking Mummies National Recognition Award – 2015…