Posted in Reflections

Heart Grows Fonder

“The problem about living all your life in the place you were born is that you’re never really given the chance to formulate your own character. You’re always your grandmother’s kindness, or your father’s ruthlessness, or your mother’s sharpness, or your grandfather’s humour. You’re always going to be the name, the religion, the address, the number on your birth certificate. You’ll make friends who look like you, who believe in the same god, who know your parents, who think they know everything about you that you inevitably can’t see yourself through anything other than the eyes they see you with. I guess home is nice, until your old wardrobe’s clothes don’t fit you anymore.”

Mohamed Kassem’s Facebook Post on the 11 September 2016

Growing up in a different place helps to form the person that you are. Your thoughts are no longer insular ones because you know better. Or perhaps better is not the right word to use here. You just simply know more about people.

Growing up in Nigeria, the outside world stopped at our neighbouring countries of Ghana, Cameroon and Benin. After that came the abroad countries- the golden milestones for any Nigerian. I didn’t know words such as Europe or continents back then. All I knew were London and America. And I knew that to get to these places meant that I had made it in life somehow.

Image result for abroad

Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy in my home country- we told fireside stories, watched the stars burn brightly on summer nights, played football barefoot with the boys, until my feet were coated with the dust of the red soil and wore thick sweaters in harmattan season to stop the onslaught of the dreaded nasal congestion that we called catarrh. And the food! I remember wishing I had eaten more whilst I had had the chance because I had always been a picky eater.

I even had a crush that I was sad to be leaving behind! I can’t help but cringe when I realise that my 10 year old self had a much more eventful love life than I do now!

But the allure of going abroad just meant so much to everybody. It didn’t matter if you were going abroad to study, to work, to clean other people’s toilets- the very fact that you made it out granted you an almost royalty level status.

It is fair to say that I didn’t know what was in store for me when my bags were packed to start this journey. In fact, in my pre-teen mind then, America and London were sister countries and I would be able to walk from one to the other and get an all around, full and excitement filled experience of living abroad. All I wanted to do was to eat pizza and meet Harry Potter. Because Privet drive was going to be just around the corner from me.

Imagine my surprise when they told me that I was coming to Dublin. Dublin. The word sounded weird in my mouth as I had already practised saying London so many times. I remember telling my classmates back then that I was leaving them to go to Dublin. I can still hear their laughter to this day!

And imagine my further dismay when I was later informed that neither America nor London were within walking distance to Dublin? And that I wasn’t even going to Dublin either? I was going to somewhere that sounded even more bizarre than that. Cork.

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My mind was blown even more with the realisation that there were just so many places in the world and they all sounded so funny- Slovakia, Ukraine, all places that I had never heard of before. And I also had to accept the fact that I would never get to meet Harry Potter or go to school in Hogwarts! Not only were they fictional but I was on the completely wrong island. You can only imagine how disappointed I had been.

I hadn’t realised it then but I had been given the opportunity to reinvent myself. True, there wasn’t much to reinvent in a 10 year old, but it must be remembered that previous to the move, my existence had already been shaped by my Lagos environment.

I had a plan in place even then- I was heading into secondary school with my friends, we would all sit our exams together and we would all become doctors and pilots together. I always struggled with whether I wanted to be a full time Doctor and a part time athlete  or a full time Athlete and a doctor on the side. It never occurred to me, that 11 years later, I would be neither!

I remember the first time that I saw white people. I was fascinated- the majority of my life having been surrounded by people who looked just like me. Now, I was the oddity, kids whispered when I walked past and adults just plain stared at me wherever I went. It was a strange feeling to get accustomed to- I always stood out.

As time went by, I learnt to be inconspicuous, talk more quietly, attain an accent so that I sounded more like them and less like me. Assimilate. It was easy for me because I was so young, because I was a chameleon and adapting was easy for me. They said write like this and I did. Talk like that and so I did that too.

I learnt so much more about the world than I would have if I had stayed home. I learnt about people- that just because they looked different to me did not mean that they were any less of a human being. I learnt that we are all humans, regardless of what language we speak and where we come from. I learnt that some people would dislike you without knowing you and that that was their burden to bear. I learnt not to judge others because everyone had their own cross to be carry- that cross may be different to yours but that did not mean that it was lighter. I also learnt that no one was better than me just because their skin was lighter than mine.

I learnt to love people.

And I grew too. I grew to love this small island and even began to call it home. Of course I miss my other home, but without the experience of moving away, I would never have been granted the opportunity to see that there is so much more to life than making it abroad.

I was given the opportunity to redefine who I was. I didn’t have to be the person that I was back then anymore, or the person that people expected me to be. My future didn’t have to be what my grandfather foresaw nor did it have to be the one that I had envisioned for myself.

It could be anything.

And for that I am eternally grateful. Because I like the person that has come out through the fire. This person is in no way perfect. She can be cruel and kind simultaneously. She can be giving and selfish in the one instant. But she is an amalgamation of all of her experiences and not what society had predetermined. And that I am grateful for.

Growing up in a different place gives a different perspective on life itself, it helps to shape who you are and adds dimension to your character.

And now I am 21 and haven’t been home in such a long time.

Of course I miss it, but I feel at home here too.

Image result for heart grows fonder

But home is always nice and for some reason, it becomes nicer the longer the time spent from it stretches.

I guess absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. But it makes the mind forget as well. But that’s a story for another day!


34 thoughts on “Heart Grows Fonder

  1. I remember being told not to tell anyone that I was going to travel… I was forbidden to because my family thought people knowing would make me a target of their jealousy and therefor they would wish ill things for me… And so I was taken away without saying goodbye to my friends. You see Afroirish I love your writing so much… I could always relate to it. You are an amazing writer and I count myself lucky to have found your blog… Stay blessed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hahaha Indeed dear Penny! I couldn’t have put it any better! It Helps to think and see that it is not that our feelings are so different after all in life despite our sometimes different experiences..
    Thank You Afroirish! I grow founder of your perspectives and writings ❤ ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow this is was amazingly written! Also, here in India, the notion is similar. Going abroad is generally considered a mark of royalty! Esp America, Canada or England! Its’s funny how our hometowns are so far away from one another, but profess similar ideals! Also, I remember when I was 9 years old, my dad was due to be posted abroad by his company. And me, as a kid, exactly like you, was unaware that New York and London were not neighbours, and I did start imagining the sort of future life we were stepping into. And then came the news. My dad was transferred to no big hot shot country but Maldives. At that time I had no idea what that was. And to make matters worse, the city was the capital city Malè (Maa-Læ). And to me and my friends that was Male as in Man. We didn’t believe such a weird place existed. What a shattering news that was! But we did go there. And what an enriching journey! I met people from the world over here in this tiny island nation. And what a beautiful country it is! One of the best things to ever happen to us. It was soon Home. (Sorry for such a long comment!!) but just saying that life is unpredictable that way. We don’t know what we may get..🌸

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I bet you look back now and marvel at the fact that your young mind somehow thought that New York was better than the Maldives! But I’m so happy to see how universal experiences and childhoods can be! It goes to show that children are children no matter the continent that they hail from and although we are all so far apart, we are all connected by life! I love the long comment! It’s things like this that I live for as it reinforces our humanity. Thank you ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  4. It’s such a joy and a pleasure to read your experiences. You’re a fantastic writer, and your perspective is so unique to any I’ve read. Thank you for sharing with us.

    While I’m white and have always lived in the U.S., I moved around a lot and can relate a little to your feelings on goodbyes. It’s hard every time, in a way. But moving — to different cities, states, countries — can be so wonderful and enriching. I think it has made me a better person that I would have been if I’d stayed in the same house my entire life. I’m strong, open minded, adventurous, and quick to love — all things I thank moving for.

    Thanks again for sharing with us.

    Kaiya x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It just goes to show a universal experience, regardless of skin tone. Leaving home really is liberating in way that it allows you to find your own person- no mum to suffocate you with love- you have to do the suffocating yourself!
      Thank you for having a read and leaving feedback!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a lovely post! I moved to Spain when we were 9, it’s actually been 15 years this month (makes me feel old!) It’s funny the only time I’d really seen Spain was on an xbox racing game, I thought there would just be lots of fields and shacks. I was very pleasantly surprised! Definitely did the ”blending in” thing until I got my confidence and realise who I was and wanted to be.

    Lovely to read how you learnt to love people and your new home too. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s crazy but I didn’t realise that this post would resonate with so many readers! But I am so glad that it did! And living in Spain was always going to be an experience of a lifetime! I’m well jealous! But I’m glad that you enjoyed your 15 years there so far and no- you’re not old at all!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is so empowering. Bifurcating from the usual norms is indeed like unshackling a lot of prejudge do views about yourself and the world around you. Reading through your lines, I could almost sense that feeling of liberation, of independence and of growth. 😘😙

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This really drew me in… Your writing is Amazing and ‘rivetingly’ addictive … We have the same mentality here in the Caribbean. Growing up America was seen as the land of milk and honey, opportunity you know.

    I always wanted to go to America, because unlike you, I only knew of America not London, not Dublin (lol it really is an awkward word) not Tazmania or any other place that I still cannot locate on a map or even those whose existence I am still oblivious to, but America.

    Stories were spoken with such animation describing the prestige, affluence– It was my Caribbean, then the rest of the world (America). Now, the ‘rest of the world” doesn’t seem so appealing to me.

    The internet and other major global developments have shrunk the world that much smaller to connect persons without them ever having to leave home. I have always wanted to travel– I even do so in my dreams… , to experience new things, cultures, food, broadening my perspective, learning the world, the people!

    It’s a great experience, my vacations to America though sporadic have taught me so many things, (like prawns aren’t as tasty as they look on Food Network).

    It is still mind boggling how there is so much intolerance and hate when the world is filled with such diversity, such eclecticism.

    I love this by the way… and absence really makes the heart grow fonder… The first time I ever left home, it was to a neighboring island for only three days, I was homesick after the first day… lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww I’m so glad you liked it. And truly, riveting is too much for me to accept haha crayfish over prawns anyway right? (That was a guess that you eat crayfish in the Caribbean like we do in Africa!) But yeah I miss home all the more cause I haven’t been back in 11 years but all things happen at the right time, so I’m not too worried. Thank you for your lovely comment! I love how long it is and how you shared your perspective as well. You have a blog post in there I’m telling you! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I realised I was getting all emotional, I was about to break out the ‘scholarly’ but had to cut it short… Didn’t want you thinking it was a hostile take over.

        Let me tell you that story about crayfish. I only learned what crayfish were in August of this year two zero seventeen.

        I kid you not. I stumbled upon them in the hills, I saw the baby ones and thought they were shrimp (stop laughing).

        I was so excited when i saw them I was like “what are shrimp doing in the mountain…?” *facepalm* Partner said no silly, they re crayfish… I was like what’s that…? *cue long explanation about crayfish* it ended with, next time we go a hunting.

        FFwd to ‘next time’ I was super duper excited to go looking for those ‘tiny’ crustaceans.. we went to the hills again this time with the kids who were equally excited to hunt them.

        Long story short, when I saw the Bitching, version of those tiny crustaceans I was like WTFFFF was that… these gigantic black clawsss… Partner remissed to tell me that those tiny things grew to freakishly monstrous sizes.

        Okay…I admit that was much. But they were huge… I don’t have to tell you how that little excursion ended do I?

        Liked by 1 person

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