Home is where the heart is. This statement couldn’t be more true for me. In the last four years, I have lived in three different countries. In the space of this time, my accent has morphed into something unrecognizable that belongs to no particular country or region, I have boxes in friends and family’s basements in different countries, and I am learning to speak a new language.
Hi, my name is Jiji, and I am an international citizen.
The idea of traveling around the world has always been appealing to me from a very young age. It’s been a steady dream of mine to learn a new language and culture and to have so many unique experiences while traveling and seeing the world. As I got older, these thoughts and desires played a massive role in my life plans.
The first step in realizing my dream came when I had the chance to move to the United States. I had gotten admitted into an MBA program, and I was ecstatic. I remember the day I traveled, and I was not the least bit emotional. The fact that I was leaving an environment and life that I had lived for 22 years didn’t seem to matter. I was so excited to start the new adventure of living in a new country and truly exploring for the first time. Fast-forward three years later as I was preparing to move from the US to Europe, and I was an emotional wreck. So much had changed; my priorities had changed and were continuing to evolve. I was a completely different person than I was three years prior. I had had so many life-changing experiences, realizations, and re-identifications that I didn’t yet fully understand.
“Distance, though it may seem to rip the heart apart, also makes it grow fonder.”
This time around, I was saying goodbye to dear friends who had become sisters and brothers, intentionally formed relationships, valuable acquaintances, and even a professional network. I was leaving behind a life routine and lifestyle that I particularly enjoyed. My favorite coffee shops, my church community, my favorite gas station, my apartment, my favorite park. All the things that seemed mundane but brought me so much joy. I was leaving all these behind, and my heart was heavy for it.
Now, part of my desire to travel the world came from a personality trait of wanting constant growth and change. I constantly sought adventure and tried to avoid any form of routine or a seemingly static lifestyle. This was part of the reason I was so eager to move to the US and start a new adventure.
So why was it different this time around? Why was I not welcoming this change like I did the first? I was excited about the adventure but hated the change. I remember sitting in a car with a friend, and he was asking me about my move and how I was processing it all. It was the first time I got to say what I was feeling out aloud. I told him; in my desire to travel the world and live in different countries, I never anticipated the emotional toll it would take on me. The difference this time was that the familiarity I left in my home country Nigeria was one I didn’t work for or choose. It was just the life I was born into. I knew my loving friends since before I was 10 and my life routine wasn’t necessarily hard to come by, it was made readily available to me. The familiarity I was leaving behind the second time around was different. I had worked for it. I had spent time building friendships, creating a network, finding the right church, curating routines, decorating my apartment and testing out different coffee shops until I found the right one. My life in the US was a representation of every conscious and independent decision I had made as an adult that had paid off. It was terrifying to leave it all behind and start over.
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You know, leaving your comfort zone is easier said than done, especially when you’re very comfortable. I had to learn to let go. I had to believe and trust that I would be able to build a life in Madrid that was as amazing as the one I was leaving behind. Now in Spain, I have developed a new routine while also exploring, I have fallen in love with the city, and I’m already forming a core group of friends. I also have new favorite coffee shops!
Life brings constant change and growth, and I have learned to be ok with that. I have learned to be attached to things and people I love without losing my identity. I am still learning to conquer the fear of change, and I am learning fast. My friendships in Nigeria and the US I was afraid of leaving behind have grown stronger. Distance, though it may seem to rip the heart apart, also makes it grow fonder.