Everybody seems to be looking for their place, that one spot in this big scary world that we can call our own. Sometimes it's where we happen to be when we need it, sometimes we need to search for it and other times our home is not even a place, but rather an idea, a person, an activity, or a community.
Many of us moved here because we were looking for somewhere we can belong -or maybe even for ourselves- and we needed the freedom of the unknown to allow us to explore and be courageous enough to go the distance to find it. Most people describe the feeling of being lost as scary and uncertain, but there is more to be said about it. First, when you have nothing to lose, you have everything to gain. Yet even more importantly, when you have no one to hold on to -whether it is other people or the identity that outside gazes pushed you to adopt-, then you fall into an abyss. However dreadful this might sound, it is in that descent into something new, with nothing certain, that we are attempting to find ourselves.
So we moved here, each from our own corner of the world -some more distant, some just a few hours away- with the intention to reclaim our identity; our possibility to grow into ourselves. Some of us were also escaping from something we wanted to leave behind and others were moving towards something they had been hoping for. Whatever the reason may have been, most of us got off the plane and hit the ground running, because all of the plans that had been in the making for the longest time were finally boiling ready to be taken off the stove and used. We could not help but feel bubbly with emotions that were constantly on the very edge of overflowing: first with heartfelt goodbyes, then with the pink-tinted glasses and the many “hello”s and finally with the nostalgic phone calls, the missed events, and the nights we had to cry ourselves to sleep.
Some of us are sure we will lose some friends and loved ones along the way, while others disagree, but there is one thing we have in common: we all miss something from “home”. It might be the tiniest detail, the most random smell, or that day-to-day situation that we had never really paid attention to, but now crave for deeply. It seems to be the things we took for granted are the ones we miss the most now: such as the deep, unique connection we could fairly easily achieve with those who are from where we are, understand our references, and grew up doing the same things we did. It is not even enough to be from the same country, for many of us it is a bond that we have only ever built up with people from our city, our neighbourhood; and when we find someone from that specific place here or there (if we are able to go back), that feeling only intensifies. Will, we ever be able to connect so deeply, so fully with someone who does not understand -or maybe does not even care- about the tiny details that made us us?
The answers to this are as diverse as the amount of people asked, but what we can definitely agree on is that this loss did not come without its gains. Being far away from “our people” gave us the chance to meet so many new people. Every day, every week we continue to get to know our new friends and their cultures better and, as unbelievable as it sounds, we continue to participate in daily introductions that transport us back to the by-now-too-familiar “What’s your name?”s and “Where are you from?”s that have helped us get in touch with all the amazing things this foreign, new, exciting city has to offer. And despite all of these intense challenges, we grew as we had never grown before. The first two weeks felt like months and the first month like a life-long experience throughout which we picked the parts of our cultures and our “home selves” we wanted to bring with us and left behind those we did not feel ours to begin with.
We chose how to present ourselves, how to portray our countries of origin and brought our traditions, food and music with us so that we could share them with our new friends, but at the same time we found in that exchange that some of the things others had to offer were so amazing and resonated so much with us that we could not let them go and so they became a part of us. It might be in the form of a song, a meal, drinks, words in a language we had never encountered before or a trip to someone else’s country that we expand our perspectives and broaden our horizons with, constantly building the intercultural selves we are starting to become.
Looking back, it is crazy that we had the courage to come this far and the strength to keep overcoming all the obstacles, but still here we are. Some of us feel they’ve found their forever place, some know as a fact that this is only a transitory setting in their journey, while others are still hesitant or torn about it, and that is okay, we have a lifetime to figure ourselves out. We might be a bit of a mess sometimes, but that is only part of the journey and one thing is for sure: whatever our definition of “home” is, we are finally starting to be able to find in this city a home we can truly belong to.
by Ju Laclau Massaglia