I have always felt a loose affinity for Hungary, but my parents recollections of communist Hungary and my experiences visiting the country when it was still under socialist rule were enough to inform me, even at a young age, that my parents had made the right choice in leaving. Back then Canada was still the kind of country people from humble origins like my father and mother – a chef and a waitress respectively – could get ahead materially if they were dedicated and hardworking. Though both held what can be considered lower middle-class jobs, they managed to create a respectable amount of wealth through real estate investments, ensuring a comfortable middle class existence for my sister and me. Though my maternal grandparents were quite skilled at making money even under the boot of communism, most of my relatives in Hungary had no such opportunities at the time. Hence, until 1989, I regarded Hungary as the old country, the place of my ancestors, but no place I to which I would ever go to live.
This all began to change in 1989, the year communism essentially collapsed in Hungary. In the following years I began to experience a strange feeling – a tug of sorts. An internal voice kept telling me I needed to go to Hungary and explore opportunities there. Being only eighteen when these feeling began, I was far too inexperienced and immature to regard them with any seriousness. Besides, I was enrolled in university and working on building up a life in Canada. What possible reason would I have to move to Hungary? I would ask myself this question every time I heard that lulling voice whisper softly from somewhere within my soul. To assuage the voice, I made frequent trips to Hungary to visit relatives, but these visits had an opposite effect. Rather than mollify the strange yearning to move to the old country, my frequent visits only intensified the mysterious desire to leave North America and move to Hungary. I continued to dismiss the voice by providing what I considered rational reasons for remaining in Canada.
For the most part I considered the desire to move to Hungary to be nothing more than a romantic notion, youthful exuberance for adventure ungrounded in logic or reason, and I did my best to ignore it as I continued my attempts to build a future for myself in Canada. Though I thought I was doing the right thing at the time, in hindsight what I was actually doing was turning my back on my destiny. Now many will scoff after reading this, but I believe what I have stated to be true. Whether we accept it or not, we all have individual destinies – broad, general paths upon which we must travel. Refusing to accept your path of destiny leads to dissatisfaction, misery, and trouble. I learned this through much of my mid-twenties and thirties, those fifteen years during which I simply rejected the idea that part of my destiny was to live in Hungary. This rejection resulted in a decade-and-a-half of being in the wrong places doing the wrong things. Though I managed to accumulate vital and meaningful skills and experiences during this time, I mostly regard that decade-and-a-half a pointless uphill slog. Everything felt forced, artificial, sub-optimal during those years. Yet, I continued to fight the desire to move to Hungary with every shred of logic and pragmatism I could muster. I withstood the siege until 2015, and then I finally threw in the towel, put my family on an airplane, and moved to Hungary after accepting a position at the University of Sopron.
Nearly four years have passed since then. The voice that had plagued me for the better part of two decades has fallen silent. For the first time in my life, I truly feel I am in the right place at the right time doing the right things. Life has become more meaningful than it ever was in the past. Though I do not know what the specifics of my individual destiny ultimately are, I know I will only be able to find them here and nowhere else.
And that is the main reason why I decided to move to Hungary.
Now the question is, how do I communicate this comprehensibly to a curious Hungarian?
Or anyone else for that matter?