Ex Locum: Latin for “out of place.”
Ex Patria: Latin for “out of country, or fatherland.”
I am an expat, or, if I am not one yet, I will be considered one in the coming years. I am purposefully and noticeably out of place— away from home, away from my culture, away from my people. I never liked this term because I thought it was mainly used by snobby Americans living in Europe who have extremely popular and cliché Instagram pages. I considered myself to be distinct: I was not tied down to my culture or geography and my nationality did not trump every other possible descriptor of me as a person.
Yet, maybe, the term has more merit than I have given it. I am out of my place. I am a young woman studying in London, away from all my family and familiar street signs or buildings. Many talk about arts connectivity, about how it has helped them gain lifetime friends and fellow artists. It manifests into a community of its own. And yes, this community is powerful and interconnected and worth growing. I’d like to address an undervalued side of art, though. I have used art to ground myself in my surroundings and in my own person.
Beginning at seven years old, I started taking classes at a local Eastern European theatre company. My drama instructor told my mom she thought I would be too fragile for the industry because I couldn’t take criticism well. I remember the first heartbreak poems I wrote at 11 years old, fresh off my “boyfriend” dumping me. Flash forward eight years and I still cannot escape this concept of human fragility. I think it’s visible in every character: actors and writers alike fill their characters with doubts and weaknesses. This reality, albeit a separate one, ate away at my own insecurities by showing me the imperfections of everyone else. Now, I am a fortress brimming with foliage and flowers. This wall may make me less receptive to others’ art, but it has cultivated my own.
Yes, we are a community. Yes, we flourish under the nurturing light of others. I am not advocating for separating yourself completely, however, do be selective. Not everyone’s art is worth taking in or allowing to affect yours. Trust the direction in which you are moving.
London constantly reminds me of this. We move together, but separately. We walk in the same direction, but end up taking different lifts. Sitting in Russell Square, writing about how I am not an original but rather a sum of pieces, juxtaposes with the fact that I am isolated on the bench, only spinning these ideas through my personal cotton-candy maker. I choreograph for groups; yet value every part as a solo. A play is best when shared, but artistic sovereignty is respected.
Allow yourself to be uncomfortable and in the ‘wrong’ place. Create a spot for yourself, even if you have to shove. You may find that this spot is exactly what you needed. This spot was precisely where you were supposed to land. Decorate your spot with art, dance through your little home with jazz in the background, and write as if you could not eat until a page is finished. Find yourself through your art. Discover your own nooks and crevices. The only true way to figure out what you stand for and what your art is worth is to put yourself in a place where the wind is blowing directly in your face.