I left Nigeria three years ago. First it was for England, now it is for Hong Kong. I have been given an opportunity to receive a world-class education and an amazing cultural experience. Many of my peers back at home in Nigeria either think I am immensely fortunate or completely insane. Yet, the grass is always greener on the other side. They tell me I am having a once-in-a-lifetime experience which will open doors for me in future. I cannot disagree with this in a show of false modesty. This really is a chance that few people get in life. Still, it does not change one fundamental fact.
I am homeless.
I have a house. I have “places to crash“. Yet, I have no home. I lost the only home I have ever known three years ago when I left in pursuit of an impressive degree. When I go back, not much has changed. My parents still live there; the same neighbours still crack jokes about how tall I have grown. But I no longer belong. Abroad, I cannot fit into my new surroundings- my dad says it is culture shock. At home, I have nothing in common with my childhood friends- new ones say we have grown apart. What any of this means is unclear to me. All I feel is that I have been uprooted from all I have always known and now, I am drifting.
This isn’t a search for pity. Making a case that my exposure to these new experiences and opportunities was inflicted on me would be ungrateful at best or even stupid. I am merely collecting my thoughts: I am coming to the realisation that in order to gain these, I traded my sense of shelter- one of the most natural instincts that a human being has. There is a reason why animals of all shapes, sizes and species return to their burrows, caves or nests. All God’s creatures desire warmth: we all seek to return to that place of safety- the place in which we feel most like our true selves. For the last three years, all I have had are residences. Spaces in which I bided time as I studied and explored my different environments. This is not going to change anytime soon. Only in the penultimate year of my undergraduate degree, I still have a long way to go.
This conclusion is one which I struggle with constantly. The fact that one of the few things I truly value is out of my reach is not easy to cope with. Yet, sometimes, before sliding into unproductive spells of self-pity, I think of my mother. The strongest woman I know has traversed different countries and cities, all in the search for a better life for her family. Many times, she embarked on exhausting business trips to remote places and even left the home and job she was accustomed to in order to marry my father and care for her children. Yet, she remains the source of warmth and strength that she has always been. Wherever she is, she is the help that those who rely on her depend on. Now, I wonder? What really is home? Is it a place from which you derive succour? Or is it more abstract?
I now think “home” can only be found in those whom you love. All these years I thought I missed the little area of Ibadan in which I grew up. In hindsight, I see that what I missed were the connections I made while I was there- connections which have waned over time. What I truly mourn is the loss of these relationships and my inability to form others as meaningful over the course of my study abroad. My mother and her sacrifice, my father and his wisdom, my true friends and their comfort, and maybe one day, a good man and his love… These constitute what I call home. My home is not as complete as I would like it to be right now but it is said that good things are worth waiting for.
So I wait.