12 years ago, my life changed drastically. I moved back to the states.
For only being 23 years old, I’ve had three life changing things happen. Moving back was the first. My parents were missionaries so my theology was shaped by dry deserts and dirt floors. From when I was only 3 months old, I grew up in strange culture, only it wasn’t strange to me. I grew up speaking British English and chasing spiders.
When I moved back, everyone said I was coming home, but this culture was strange.
This year, March 17, marks 12 years that I’ve been in the states. After March 17, I will have lived in America longer than I lived in Nigeria.
This is bittersweet. Most people won’t fully understand the significance of this year, but I want to honor the country and people that played a significant part in the shaping of who I am today.
Here’s 4 things I learned:
- Cultures are vastly different. In America, there were so many choices-so many things. My brain often got (and still gets) overwhelmed at the grocery store because there are 10 choices for 1 item. Time is linear, here, rather than circular. This moment in time was thought to never come around again which was the exact opposite of Nigeria. If you had planned on doing something, but someone stopped by, you would focus on that person because the time to do that thing would come around again. I, also, grew up in a relationship focused culture rather than a time focused culture. The culture was dictated by relationships rather than the clock. If someone stopped by, you would drop everything and welcome them. People matter first.
- It is possible to put roots into people as opposed to places. Places are important. While staying is just as important as going, sometimes, it’s hard to call a certain place “Home”. Home to me is people. I’ve put down roots into people—people that I’ve established as being important in my journey that is called life. I’ve nurtured those roots—watered them. It doesn’t matter the location of the people that a well place elephant picture or song can’t make them seem closer. If we get the chance, coffee dates are my love language, and I love discussing life over coffee. I put roots into people. Even after my TBI, I remember most people but situations and places are fuzzy . I think it stemmed from my transitional childhood and the fact that relationships were greatly valued. Don’t get me wrong, places matter, as my spiritual formation has been shaped by lush green springs, the grey, rainy days, the vast deserts in Africa, the blue-green oceans in Haiti and the magnificent mountains in Montana. God has met me in so many places in the reality of my nomadic past and He often used people.
- My heart is big enough to hold many places—more places than I even know. When I first moved back, I couldn’t imagine loving this country as much as I loved Nigeria. Nigeria is still my heart’s home but this country has grown on me. The first time I went to Haiti I didn’t know that it—the country itself—would worm its way into my heart. My heart was stolen by the people and their generosity. The first time I went to Montana, my soul felt free and I fell in love with the mountains and the people. When I went to the Dominican Republic, I didn’t know that my heart had room for another country, but it did. My heart made room for the DR, and it stamped itself on my heart. My heart holds those places closely and now, I know that my heart can hold so many more places.
- Normal is overrated. When I first moved back, I felt like I had a stamp on my head. I felt like I had to explain to everyone why I was so weird-why I didn’t know what movies, books or songs were popular or why I knew more about the current events than musical artists. Someone would tell a joke and I would laugh even though I had no idea why it was funny. I just didn’t want to be the only person not laughing. I was trying so hard to be “normal”. I wrestled with insecurity because I was not like everyone else. Over time, I learned to see the value of my experience. It made me a more diverse and well-rounded person. I may be different, run on African time, and not know what is currently popular, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.