Yesterday morning around 5am I lost my country. Or perhaps it lost me, I’m not sure. All I know is that it feels like it isn’t there anymore. It’s going to take some time for me to find it again but I am pretty certain in time I will, but in the last 24 hours I have come to a realisation that I think will make that search easier and it is this: nothing has actually changed.
I looked around me and saw that my friends and family, the people I work with, the community in which I live and the people I was fighting to help are still there. The things that defined what I believed in, had faith in, was willing to take a leap into the dark for, haven’t gone away.
I am certain that over the last two years and more everyone who made that decision to mark the box next to “Yes” on their ballot in Thursday’s referendum for Scottish independence underwent a certain amount of introspection. We all know a little bit more about ourselves than we did at the beginning of the process.
Personally I had to question much of what I would have previously used to define myself. My heart has left the football club that I grew up with, finding the behavior and beliefs of too many of its support incompatible with the future I wanted to live in. My head has abandoned the party I have voted for since I was able, its values and actions moved too far from the principals which formed the basis of my support for it. An institution which I grew up trusting and believing, using it as a yardstick for truth, and seeing it as a beacon of democracy in the world has so fundamentally disappointed me that I may forever assume the worst of it despite wishing I didn’t have to. I have learned things about family and friends which has caused me to see some in new lights, both positively and negatively. Much of the core of what I thought was ‘me’ had to change and I know that this happened to so many of those who yearned to use that new knowledge to build a better place for themselves, their children and those around them.
I as stood by Holyrood on the evening of the vote, taking pictures and taking in the warm feeling of anticipation of the birth of a new challenge, a new nation, I truly believed that enough of us had gone through this journey too and that we were all ready to move away from our assumptions and unquestioned beliefs but it was not to be. The majority of us had either gone through this journey too and come to a different conclusion, or decided that the road was not worth traveling.
Its tough when all this work feels like it has come to nothing. Its hard to know how to react, what to do next, whether it is worth going on. Personally I am going to have to take some time to figure out what to do with my newfound self. I need to pick apart the knowledge of this setback, separate the true reasons for hope from the platitudes and wishful thinking. What I will say is this. Where you live, the people you live with and the problems you saw and wanted to solve are still there, they haven’t changed. The reasons for embarking on the journey are still there so don’t turn back.
Take a new road, try a new path, keep striving. Don’t take heart from the nature of the defeat, forget the defeat altogether and remember why you played the game in the first place.
I can’t promise you its a solution, but its a start.
(All photographs copyright Lewis Brown)