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 seeing the world. As I got older, these thoughts and desires played a huge 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, 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 just 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 and I am 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 change. 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 essentially 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 till 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 very scary to leave it all behind and start over.
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 developing 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.