How to Grow Roots
By Katie Szyszko
: the process in which a minority group comes to resemble society’s majority group or assume the values, behaviours, and beliefs of another group whether fully or partially
: the incorporation or conversion of nutrients into protoplasm that in animals follows digestion and absorption and in higher plants involves both photosynthesis and root absorption
For this, you will need:
A heartful of irrational aversion towards your old soil
A mountain of confidence
A few old photographs in which you don’t recognise yourself (avoid: pictures in which you’re smiling, pictures taken in summer/Christmas, pictures of your old house)
A dictionary of uncharged words
A pinch of selfishness
The process of growing roots might take a while, but don’t be discouraged! It’s worth it!
1. Decide If You Are Good for Rooting
For the process of rooting to be successful, you will need to use a healthy cutting, preferably from the newer growth. Cut too early and you’re just a rebel without a vision. Cut too late, you might be facing other issues (see: how to deal with nostalgia, idealisation and patriotism). If possible, it’s good to do the soil test. Once pulled out of the old ground, do not look back. Do not keep in touch. Do not make your grandmother’s pie.
2. Trim Yourself
Trim yourself of your name in your mother’s tongue, the words you overused, the words you didn’t really know but shyly reached for in a drunken state when that Uncle who always pours everyone twice before he pours himself got you so pissed you thought you would never make the plane. Places you lived in and places you only saw through the window of your parents’ car as they drove you to primary school then decided you were old enough to take the bus and this made you prouder than anything else in life. Trim yourself of all flavours. There will be potatoes where you’re going but even they won’t taste the same, and your first pack of Marlboro Lights abroad will make you want to quit smoking. Trim yourself of good memories, bad memories, the lyrics to Christmas carols. The day you decided to leave. You told your cousin, and she turned her head and stared for a long time, then asked what time it was. Trim yourself of the version of the events in which you got home early enough to say goodbye to your grandfather. Trim yourself of your native voice, the one that makes the sounds which you will no longer need.
Now look how clean you are.
3. Dig a Hole
Dig a hole in your heart. Fill it with:
A mouthful of words untranslatable into your own language
A breath of silent acceptance of things you will never be able to understand
An effigy of new customs, gestures, intonations
A (duty free) carton of cigarettes which will substitute kisses
Be patient while filling the hole. The process might take between forever and never.
4. Place Yourself Deeply into the New Ground
Where your language resembles throat clearing and the names of locals sound edible.
5. Water Yourself Daily with New Words Until You Forget the Old Ones
Repeat this method for: people, places, foods.
6. Note That Your Connection with Your Native Country Might Die
Your memories will turn black and white and when you visit your hometown, even the bus trip will make you feel anxious. You won’t know what to get your brother for Christmas and forget your best friend’s birthday once, twice…At some point it won’t matter. You’ll say, at least I visit them while they never visit me here, in this soil a little too moist but slowly getting there.
To test the new roots, give yourself a gentle tug. If you feel resistance, it means that the roots are growing. Don’t be rough though or you could pull yourself out.
Katie Szyszko is a translingual writer, an editor and a creative writing teacher based in Folkestone, England. She writes in Polish and English and her short stories and flash fiction have been published in literary magazines in both languages. In the last year she’s been exploring visual arts and is currently curating an exhibition. When she's not writing, she can be found tarot reading, playing the cello and pole dancing. She lives with her partner, two cats and a dog who thinks he's a cat.