When Jane Jacobs’ sons were in danger of being drafted into Vietnam, the Jacobs family emigrated to Canada and eventually became Canadian citizens. An interviewer at Metropolis later asked if this was disruptive. Jacobs answered:
Well, it would have been disruptive if we had thought of ourselves as exiles. People who think of themselves as exiles, I find, can never really put their lives together, really. We thought of ourselves as immigrants. And it was an adventure and we were all together.
“We wanted to be a part of where we were,” she said. “Being an exile is having it fixed in your mind that you’ve just come to a place as a stop-gap measure.”
Exile worked for me until I had children. I could be in the city, but also apart from it. I could detach whenever I wanted to. I could hide out. Make my own world.
Even with babies, exile still worked. I was home with them. No need to send them anywhere. I could swaddle them up and keep them close. Pull the shades down and stay in.
Now they are growing up, and they want — they demand — to be a part of the world around them. They want to go outside and turn over every rock. They want to meet and befriend everyone on the sidewalk.
I never resent my kids, but, in my darker moments, I resent the way they have made me vulnerable to my surroundings. Suddenly, I am at the mercy of my street, my neighborhood, my city, my state, my country.
My children are natives, but I am still in exile.
It’s time to immigrate… or return home.