Arrested Development

Wake up and smell the coffee!

Back in England my life was full of Things but no Substance. Living on a shoestring here in Canada has been like slowly waking up from a long sleep.

This is due in part to the fog of pregnancy and early motherhood that’s engulfed me for the past six years. As a stay-at-home mum to three, bringing them up (teaching, explaining, disciplining, refereeing, etc.) and maintaining the home became my raison d’ être, and though satisfying, didn’t give me much opportunity to indulge my creative spirit in a manner of my choosing. It didn’t matter how many arts and crafts we did, or nature walks we took – somehow it wasn’t pushing my buttons. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it, it just felt like something was missing. But when necessity dictates you knuckle down and that part of you becomes dormant until something comes along to awaken it… moving to a different continent.

We may not have the car/cable/phone/cottage (more on those later) but we have gained so much. It’s intangible – not something that you can point to or classify, but the feeling of potential, adventure, hope, fierce love for one another and pioneer pride is so much more satisfying and something we can carry within us wherever we go.

Emigrating has given me the chance to re-invent myself – junking what I didn’t like and working to develop those characteristics I value as a part of my identity. I’ve become stronger and more self-aware, grown in confidence, tolerance and understanding, and the move to Canada has been the catalyst for this personal development.


Whitby Shores, Whitby, Ontario

By Aisha Ashraf

An autistic Irish immigrant in a cross-cultural marriage, Aisha Ashraf is the archetypal outlander, writing to root herself through place and perspective. Published in The Rumpus, The Maine Review, River Teeth, HuffPost and elsewhere, her work explores the legacy of trauma, the nature of being an outsider and the narrow confines of belonging. She currently lives in Canada.


  1. I find that this is the case whenever I’ve moved country – you have the opportunity to stop and evaluate whether you really need all the junk that you accumulate over time and you do end up focusing on the essentials. This is not a comment about the material things in life – that tatty old vase that seemed like a good idea at the time, etc – but also the way you live you life, as you rightly point out. I’ve noticed myself change after I moved to the UK, then back to Malta and now to Belgium and my priorities have refocused themselves based upon the experiences, the new culture and – above all – the way I am “forced” to change to adapt.

    Thanks for sharing this – it struck a chord, as you can see.

    1. Thanks for that! This was my first post and the one I thought was probably the most clumsy! Glad it got the feelings across.
      The best way I can describe it – this enforced re-evaluation – is “refreshing”. It’s like an icy shower that wakes you up and leaves you tingling afterwards. You have a re-newed energy to tackle things and a fresh perspective. I suppose it’s the knock-on effect of everything around you being different. You become different too. No man is an island 😉

Fewer than 1% of visitors leave a comment - be different, be heard, be someone with an opinion.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.