I have never written about my homecoming. I suppose, on many levels, it’s because it’s still an experience. Even now.
I moved back to Nigeria in October 2015. I had been gone for 6 years and I loved every moment I was away. The problem with home is that you’re attached to it. Maybe someday I will write about how tedious it is to be emotionally tied to a place that is bad for you. It is actually worse than dating someone who is bad for you and BELIEVE ME, I would know.
You should not trust people who say you should believe them, by the way.
Okay, so I moved to the US when I was 17 and it felt like someone gave me wings. Wings are great when you’re 17 but you would hate them if your 17-year-old developed them. Which my mother did. Hated them, I mean.
I’d always been a little different from everyone else I knew. Always a little too loud, too talkative, too opinionated. Too everything. It was painful for a teenager who was trying to find herself in a society that essentially stifles children and women. I knew I was a feminist from the day my father bought Power Rangers for my brother and didn’t buy them for me. I love you, Daddy.
Anyways, I started the process of finding myself in America. All my firsts happened there. Every single one of them. The first time I was in love, the first time I got in a real fight, the first time I argued with a professor, the first time I fell in love with myself. I made my own friends, who were probably the most eclectic group of people but they were my people.
I loved college. Not sure it loved me but I loved it. I drank way too much (sorry, Mom), missed half my classes (sorry to everyone who ever believed in me at that time), pledged a society (best decision of my life at 17), became president of said society (don’t hurt your back while you bow to me) and generally conquered my little world. I also went to grad school (to get an MBA, can you imagine?), but everything was a process. I found out who I was and loved her so deeply.
After my MBA, the conversation came up of “what will you do next”, which I feel every graduate hates to hear. Nobody knows, man. Stop asking. Knowing what I did NOT want to do with my life helped me figure out what I wouldn’t mind doing to earn a living. So, business analyst. Seemed straightforward. Ha. Hahaha.
Was not straightforward. By this time, I was in a relationship with what might have been the most unexpressive man on the planet (I don’t blame him for being unexpressive, some people are just that way, but I do blame myself for thinking I could work through that or fix it). I decided to move back home because I was tired of being interviewed on the phone by people who were less qualified than I was and having to deal with their shocked expressions when they met me in person and discovered that I, Ahunna, was not, in fact, a white girl from Hawaii. It’s like, are there ANY white people from Hawaii? Ugh.
Anyways, my first experience of moving back home was while I was in New York trying to register for NYSC. Childbirth is probably an easier experience. I got so exhausted from that alone, I moved my flight closer so I could be home earlier to register in Nigeria. I legitimately could not deal. I must have tried to upload my photo 500 times. My parents would not offer suggestions because they thought that I should “start practicing what it is like to deal with incompetence on that level”. Seriously, Mommy, I don’t ever want to get used to nonsense.
I came back and my relationship ended. Which was terrible at the time because I was alone and so lonely in Lagos. I am friendly but I don’t enjoy making friends because it means sharing my problems and people are so terrible blah blah. You get it. I was alone and sad all the time. The camp part of NYSC was going to start at the end of October so I had something to look forward to.
Camp was actually fun for me because I reunited with my best friend from secondary school and we essentially complained together the whole time, which was lovely. All this while, I harbored feelings of uncertainty and had started having proper panic attacks (I react extremely to heartbreak and it causes anxiety, which is amazing for someone who is already a worrier). It was so rough. I really think the first six months here were the roughest patch of my life.
I should say that moving back to Lagos involved LOADS of crying. I cried everywhere. Everywhere. I wasn’t a crier before I moved to Lagos. You’d go to the bank and you’d end up waiting two hours for something that does not take 10 minutes. You’d drive to work and spend 2.5 hours in traffic and still get called ashewo. You’d go to the market and men would touch you before you could tell them that you were not interested in their wares. It was so difficult for me because I am an optimist (which I’m sure you can tell from this very happy essay) and I genuinely approached every situation with excitement. Lagos will try to take that from you. That excitement will disappear like our national reserves, baby.
But. I found life here. Real life. I met the best man and he loves me so hard every day, it makes me wonder if I love myself enough. In this city of filth and zero morals, I found the most priceless thing. Even now, I feel God laughing at me. I know His sense of humor is different. He knew I didn’t think I’d find any beauty here but my goodness.
I have an amazing job so I don’t have to struggle. I never had that in America. Life was great but it was superficial. It just didn’t mean as much. This is the tie I was describing earlier. The love for something that isn’t good for you. My life means more here because I am here. Where else did I think I’d find love or fulfillment. I feel ridiculous for ever thinking I could do anything meaningful away from Home.
I hate that I have to explain that marriage is not a goal for me. Or that being an educated woman doesn’t mean that I have to hide my brilliance from men. I hate that being Igbo is fine until you want to marry a Yoruba man. I hate that I see other women oppress themselves over men who are not worthy enough to shine their shoes. I hate that I have to explain why I work so much instead of relying on a man. Or even justify why I have a massive dog (he’s a neopolitan mastiff. I’ve owned a fluffy dog and a teddy bear and I genuinely liked the teddy bear a little more). I hate that my boyfriend notices how differently people treat me because I am a woman. I hate that he has to watch it happen almost every day without being able to really change it. I hate that sex is something that is hushed up when everybody knows it is enjoyable. I hate that girls get raped and tell me their stories and I have to cry at night knowing that they will NEVER get justice. I hate that I live in a society where not wearing heels means I don’t care AS much (I care, I just hate heels. And bras). I hate that my parents try to make me go to church when the people there do not even know who I am or the things I care about.
But the things I love make all the difference. And home brought them to me.