I’ve had two opportunities to ponder two things about me that are worth pondering. Both are related to being an outsider: I’m an expatriate, and I’m a mature student. The first ponderous moment was a survey I filled in. It focused only on my experience as expat, and even the pondering brought about more pondering about the subject of my musings.

All this pondering now has me thinking about ponds. And Doctor Who.

I digress, though: having recently commemorated the tenth anniversary of our arrival in Ireland, I’d say my expat label has matured to where my view on the matter can be considered informed. And the information I can impart is this: for all that I have an Irish passport, I am not Irish, and never will be. Because life has a weird and twisted sense of humour, I am also no longer South African. Leaving, living elsewhere, means I am forever changed. I am neither one, nor am I the other. My identity is that I am identity-less.

The second period of pondering was brought about by someone asking me what it was like to be a mature student. (This was perhaps ironic, in an Alanis Morissette kind of way, as I was just acquiring something rather immature to play a trick on my kids.) Being a mature student is a similar experience to being an expat. I am a student, I have a student card, I attend classes, but I am not a student. I’m late for class because the cat was sick and I needed to take care of her before I could leave, not because I partied last night and overslept because I only got in bed at 3am. I’m stealthily texting in class to remind my son of his haircut, not to flirt with my boyfriend. I don’t have a boyfriend – my husband would probably object if I did. That personal problem my classmate is facing – I’m helping my child through the same thing.

The commonality, I think, is that both experiences are of being different. Different is difficult, but I believe difficult is the entry fee for an awesome life.

I pay it with a smile.


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