After news broke about (another) shooting rampage Stateside, I looked up San Bernadino relative to Stanford yesterday, and noted the little yellow stars that appeared on my map of California, marking the places I’d once looked up and thus visited. Immediately, I felt a pang in my heart. Sometimes I relapse and miss the life I had over there, half the globe away. It was neither glamorous nor eventful, yet in every instance and moment – I was present and my life, it was mine; wholly mine.
“Sometimes people ask me if I miss the life I had had in the US,” I shared with my old pal last week on our drive back from brunch, “And of course I do. I’d be lying if I say that I don’t miss it. But that chapter… it’s over. I don’t regret coming home. Because I don’t think I’ve ever felt so… myself – present? – until now. This life here is different than that I had over there, but over here I get judged and scrutinized and evaluated for being myself first – not because I’m international, or female, or Muslim, or whatever you want, or have, labeled me as. Over here, before any definitions – I am myself.”
In a way, I think I’ve conditioned myself to forget via acceptance, the life I lived over there. But some nights, late at night, huddled under my comforter, I peruse through photos I took of sunsets and sunny, blue skies all across the US. Some nights I allow my memories to unveil themselves from secret drawers and dusty shelves, willing to recall the life I had had.
Sometimes, like today, I let myself feel sad for giving it up. For letting that life go. Because although the past six years was mostly lived by a tumultuous and unsteady self as I searched, explored, trial-and-erred and experimented with different forms and ideas of myself – there was never once, not even during the lowest and hardest phases, did I feel like I’d lost autonomy over my life and self. The space to grow into an adult, a person, of my choosing. The autonomy to ruminate over and make decisions. Sometimes… lately… I feel like this is the trade-off of coming home and being at my happiest.
Today I allowed myself to remember the life I had had; times when if Sunday was a self-proclaimed lazy day – then so be it. If Monday was a late-night drama-marathon night, so be it. If Friday meant aimless long walks around the city after dark, so be it. If Thursday was a no-homework day, so be it. Whatever it is, whatever they are – so be it. I decide. I decide.
Some days, like today, I let myself miss that life. I allow myself to be selfish about wanting it back. I let myself yearn, then mourn, for that life I had had. The one I chose to let go of. I let my mind wander as far as it wants to – Philly, California, New York… wherever – and I also give myself permission to device countless seize-and-capture plans to retrieve it back.
Because some days, like lately, home is a prison.
I must stage my exit.