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I was working with a group of international school secondary school students not long ago. I had asked them to work in small groups to identify what skills they through they had gained as a result of their internationally-mobile experiences. When reporting back, one young man, perhaps seventeen years old, said that what he had learned was not to feel feelings. All the other students laughed; they understood exactly what he was talking about.
This poem by Farhan Haq illustrates to me the same reality: "In corridors which wind in me, I sometimes sense but never see..." Its inevitable that we all have corridors winding around inside ourselves. It is absolutely wrong, however, that they be only sensed, never seen.
The feelings associated with loss are not necessarily attractive in their expression. Indeed, feelings can be quite messy at times. Perhaps they also inspire guilt within the parents, those people seen by the child as instigating the disliked move. Certainly, an unhappy child expressing his or her unhappiness does nothing to ease the unhappiness that the parents, too, may be feeling. Learning not to feel feelings may in fact become a learned survival skills common to all the family members. If one is hurt repeatedly, one learns to self-protect. Not feeling feelings, not forming close friendships, not becoming attached to place or possessions may all be multi-mover survival skills.
As Farhan illustrates in his poem, closing off to "the throbs for what I left behind" also means closing off to "the far off rumble of my laugh." One cannot create barricades against sadness and still feel happiness, barricade fear and still feel excitement. Global nomads need to be given practical support with their "dripping tears" and "lurking fears." It may not be easy or comfortable, but it is critical.
We welcome your comments, and we invite you to share your own experiences of international mobility through poetry, stories, or other prose.
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