Ms. Alheri: What Does Home Mean to You?
I started boarding school when I was ten years old. I was excited to leave home, mainly because of the exciting stories which older cousins told me every time they were on holiday. There was this particularly close cousin I had, and she attended school in a different city from where we lived.
To me, she was the quintessential role model. Her check was always perfectly ironed, she had the most fun friends, and her stories always were the most interesting. I so badly wanted to be like her that when the time came, I too, wrote my common entrance exams and prayed with all my heart that I would be accepted to boarding school in a different city.
When I finally began school, I cried every single day for the first three weeks. I did not know a single soul in that school and I had never even as much as had a sleepover. I had spent every single day under my parents’ watchful eyes, and in my siblings’ company. On my first visiting day when my mother came to see me in school, I also cried the entire day. I badly wanted to return home.
But somehow, I made it. And six years later, I graduated from boarding school. I loved my school, and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience, although it certainly wasn’t all rosy. I’m grateful for the wholesome education that I gained.
Sometime during those years, our ideas of home constantly are challenged and morph accordingly. At first, we have a consuming desire to return home to our parents and relatives. But as we begin to develop friendships and relationships with our friends, we began to enjoy the time spent away from our families and fully enjoy our friends.
More so, about ten years later, my friends from boarding school still are some of my closest friends. This is a very common story in Nigeria, where many of us move to school as children, graduate at about sixteen or seventeen and move away for university (all things being equal). In my own case, I left Nigeria when I was sixteen to further my education.
I undoubtedly have imbibed the lifestyle in my new environment. that I have experienced, because whether or not we agree, some of my “growing up” continues to happen in an entirely different culture and in a more diverse environment.
As much as home technically remains where my parents live, I wonder if that’s where I feel most at home. I know that my parents love me, but do I truly express my most genuine thoughts when I’m around them?
For instance, do I always explain to them that I don’t always think that piercings and tattoos are merely artistic and not necessarily spiritual? They don’t know that I think dreadlocks are not dirty, but merely an expression of one’s personality.
My friend Lucia says that leaving home young makes you appreciate those you truly love and care for all the more, because you don’t spend that much time with them. She argues that leaving home young and having all these experiences makes the idea of home more fluid. Home transcends a geographical location, and becomes anywhere we feel most loved and comfortable to express our truest selves without the fear of judgment.
I spent some time with four of my friends from boarding school last summer and I felt very much at home with them. There was no forming because these people have watched me grow up from an immature crybaby to a confident young woman. I wonder if that’s more of my home.
We also cannot forget the financial aspect. Home also has to do with where our sustenance comes from. If you’re young and earning your own money like some of my friends, where is your home? As much as you don’t rely in your parents, you love and respect them, but is their house still your home?
I’m very curious about this. What do you think? Does home change as we grow older? Or do you believe, like some people do, that when you “settle down” (which is Nigerian speak for getting married), then you indeed begin to build your home? Does this mean that if you are a single working unmarried professional, you still don’t have a home until you couple with someone?
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