“It is always sad when someone leaves home, unless they are simply going around the corner and will return in a few minutes with ice-cream sandwiches.” – Lemony Snicket, Horseradish
I’m three days away from saying goodbye to my parents, and only five away from my first day of university. Excited? I should be. A bundle of nerves? I very much am.
By this point, I was hoping I’d be feeling a lot more upbeat about the adventure that lies ahead. It’s right around the corner. Three years spent away from home, in a huge city with a lot of amazing prospects that I am yet to discover. My overly dreamy and imaginative mind jumps places with the idea(s) of what 2015-18 would be like in the story that is my life. I’m determined to get this double-degree, yes, but apart from the professional side of it – there’s so much more that could happen! I could befriend a prodigy and take over the world through our shared intellect! Or I could stop someone else from taking over the world and transform myself into a super-heroine in the eyes of the public. Okay, okay. None of that is going to happen. In a realistic sense, the possibilities are…that I might meet my future husband! *le gasp* And get another book released, this time through a publishing house!
My mind prances and dances around the possibilities of all these wonderful, crazy things happening but then, my emotions just step in. It feels like it just grabs me by the ankle as I’m in the middle of leaping through the air like a beautiful, and utterly graceful gazelle and then-
You get the idea.
Sentiments are holding me back from feeling anything but excited right now. And that’s not a bad thing. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from life so far, it is that it’s okay to be emotional about things. And it’s double-okay to allow yourself to feel them. I have attempted at blocking out ‘feeling’ things, and sometimes even forced myself to feel a certain way. It never worked – at least not in the long term. Reality demands to be lived as much as emotions are meant to be felt. I think that’s where I’m struggling right now.
What’s been in my heart the past couple weeks, which continues to amplify as the days grow numbered, is not just a case of the classic ‘cold feet’. It’s not exactly fear, it’s not exactly nerves. It’s somewhere in between that. Anxiety, maybe? But all that does is make me ask myself why I would feel anxious, now of all times.
I have moved several times in my life. I have gone through this process of saying goodbye to a place and the people in it again…and again…and again. It was tiring almost, but I like to think I’ve become an expert at dealing with leaving one place and starting life in another. And yet – this is the worst time. This uncertainty and the way my heart doesn’t stop to rest but only beats faster, struggling somewhat with each pump – it’s never been like this before.
I’m back in the country I’m naturally inclined to call home. India is where I’m from. It’s where my parents are from, and theirs, and theirs before that. It’s the place I should identify as my home but I never have. And yet, knowing that I’m strapping myself down for a minimum stay of three years, and a maximum of the rest of my life here is supposed to make me feel comforted. I feel the exact opposite as trepidation ceases my heart in its painful, and literally breath-stealing grip. Ironically enough, this is the one time my expertise in this area of life fails me. And I know exactly the reason why.
I’ve never once identified a single country as home. Due to the fact that I was constantly on the move, I would always perceive a particular place as another temporary point of stay, rather than a home. I would prepare myself for the moment when I’d have to pack my bags, say goodbye, and depart, yet again to have the process start over. It was a great big circle of life. And the one thing that stayed all through out the most inconstant, ever-changing life I have is my parents. My family. I didn’t realize the meaning of what ‘home’ truly is until a couple weeks ago.
Home isn’t a physical place. Least, it doesn’t have to be for a third culture kid like myself. Home is Mom. Home is Dad. They’ve always been there for me, through every single moment of my life up to now.
- They were there to witness my first time off to a funny little nursery school named ‘Tom and Jerry’ in the magical city of Cairo. I had thrashed and wailed and screamed – not wanting to leave their side for one second – not used to being away from them.
- They were there to see me present my first ever middle-school Science Fair project in Khartoum, and witness the moment I returned home with my chest puffed out as I told them I won first-place.
- In Sierra Leone, they were there at my O-Level and AS-level graduation ceremonies and watched proudly from afar when I said my opening speech and received my certificates.
- During my short three months of studying in Madurai, Mom would wake up early in the morning and send me off with encouraging smiles and a lunch box filled with delicious home-cooked food. Dad would be there to welcome me back home after a tiring day in our evening Skype sessions, wanting to know everything about how my day went.
- And during senior year in England, they were my own personal cheer-leaders – motivating me and telling me I could handle taking up and teaching myself A2 Accounting when I lacked faith in myself as a self-teacher (and were there to celebrate with hugs and kisses when I ended up getting the highest final grade for the course).
And that’s just all the academic stuff. If it weren’t for their support and guidance through the chaotic stages of teenage life (and let me tell you right here and now, it was not pretty), I would not have survived and grown up to be the strong, independent woman I am now.
Dad and I would stay up certain nights till the early hours of the morning, talking about social pressures, love and relationships, religion and God, and our shared dreams of the future. I would sit in the kitchen and watch Mom cook the food of the Gods (honestly, she is talented) while hearing me ramble on about my thoughts on feminism, favorite characters and whatnot. They’ve both been deeply hurt by me during my rebellious times and were there to take me with open arms when I came back to them with a heart full of regret and sorrow. They’ve been there through it all – to wipe away the tears from my first heartbreak to seeing me vow away romance for the rest of my single life. They’ve put up with my sometimes ridiculous optimism and nurtured me out of my toxic pessimism.
This is turning out into something I wanted to avoid: utterly cliche but I’m not going to delete a word because every bit is as true as cheese.
My parents are my home.
And I will be leaving them.
I always longed for a place to identify as where I belong to. A place I can ‘root’ myself in. It’s taken me far too long to realize that I’ve always had it, a moment’s touch away, in the form of two beautiful, selfless beings God gifted me as my mother and father. And it’s my utter blindness and lack of enough appreciation that kept me from realizing this. But I guess that’s how we, as humans, function, right? We never realize the value of something until we are faced with the reality of having to part from it.
That is why this gut-wrenching dread has been filling me up for weeks now. I don’t want to leave them. I don’t want to face a day without their constant presence beside me, physically. I don’t even want to imagine having to come back to a place without the two people I call ‘home’ in it. Because that’s what I’ve had all my life.
This is more than just your regular ‘oh, yeah, she’s leaving off to college and is dealing with parting from family but she’ll get the hang of it soon’ thing. Because my dad is my best-friend and my mom is my sister. They are pieces of my soul and pieces I am afraid to part from physically out of fear that something impure might take its place.
Okay, that just got a whole lot deeper but I’m basically saying I’m afraid that when I screw life up, or when life screws me up (which I am very sure will happen), I won’t be able to face it without them. I know I have to – that’s part of growing up. Becoming an adult. All that shizz. I just don’t want to do that.
I want to be the little baby girl who clung onto her Dad and Mom’s legs like a vine when they dropped her off at her first day at the nursery. In my 18 years of life, I proudly call myself a young woman right now. An ‘adult’. But in truth…I can still identify to the girl I was then. The girl I still am. Because right now – I really want to scream out, “Amma! Appa! Don’t leave me!” again.
No offense to my two future roommates – girls, we might end up becoming great friends and have bucket loads of fun but you do not come close to my parents at all and never, ever will. They are, and always will be, the one place I call home.
Mom, Dad, you probably won’t see or read this for a while because we’re having crazy days right now and still have a lot to deal with over the next few weeks (and months). But this is my open love letter to the both of you. Yup, it’s all over the Internet and I really should have said these things to your face but what can I say? I am a blubbering idiot when it comes to expressing how I feel verbally. This, on the other hand, is a somewhat organized mess of what my brain is thinking, and heart is feeling.
I initially wanted to title this post ‘My Very Cold Feet’ but that doesn’t come at all close to how I feel. This is way past cold feet. This is down-right frostbite of the soul. But I’m hoping that I’ll warm up to the life that unfolds over the next three years. And just maybe, I might find something else to call home too.
Here’s to hoping it happens!