I arrived carrying a red suitcase. In it, I had clothes for interviews and parties, beach and home. I packed a couple of sentimental items that would give me backbone if I faltered in forward momentum. It contained things I had bought only a few months prior and yet knew me better than anyone who would know me by face in this vast continent upon which I alighted.
I had left convincing everyone that I would return in three months, to either bed back in or formally uproot. I avoided saying goodbye to but a few, knowing I was to be greeted by only a few who knew me this side of the world. I knew what I thought would happen and what could happen and that really I had no idea about anything. I arrived both open and optimistic and, I thought, fortified for the journey.
For the last four years, I’ve lived well outside of my comfort zone. Every part and level of me has been stretched to new limits. The happiest moments have been just that, because I’ve had to internalise them better without the debriefs of intimate minds who could empathise with little words. The hardest moments have been the longest and most enduring tests without the solace of people who knew how I was best comforted, righted and lifted back to my feet. The days inbetween have been little chips with a fairy-sized pick axe, denting and flaking off veneers of cities and masks in a bid to build a home among cultural and professional strangers and new hearts who have received me. There has been no easy ‘home base’, those who could remind me of harder times overcome not laughable mistakes which have been long since forgiven and forgotten.
As the sun has shone overhead, I’ve reconnected with the land as my battery. I’ve remembered something I must’ve known as a child on Gambian shores, that salt water heals so many ills, wounds and gaping soul holes. I have returned to loving nature and its steady cycles as a constant in my life, taking comfort in its incessant repetition and evolution, knowing that I must be mirroring it.
I have lost sight of and rediscovered my voice, my spirit, my backbone and my heart so many times along the way. The suitcase has been physically and mentally repacked a few times. Whilst I believe I walk and talk (hopefully) the same way, there has been an intangible shift and it is still happening. Each day I spot new walls that I’ve erected and old ones that I am disassembling. Each day I try to be aware of what no longer serves and find a way to let it go, in amongst holding life and myself together.
If I sound ungrateful, I’m truly not. Things like this blog and the person who types them would not have existed but for this chapter, at least not yet. And I’ve a growing network of the most incredible supporters here and there. But it is also true that, if I’d known the continental and universal shift that the 25 hour plane hop would make, I may well have stayed in my safe zone. So today, exactly 4 years to the day, I wanted to acknowledge the demolition, building, reinventing, rebirthing that has happened in a bid to be kind to myself. It’s a truly emotional day of all sorts of magnitude and the journey doesn’t stop here.
Where the next four years will take me, I have no idea. I have an idea of what will be and what could be but also that there may be curve balls and squiggly line paths to get there. I’ve been blessed with new cheerleaders and the shadows of old ones who stretch across the divide as best they can. I am lucky. It may feel like the loneliest path to take sometimes, but I know I’m not alone. And I will try to write it all the best I can, for my sake and just in case there is anything that makes the load lighter for anyone else who stumbled across this blog walking a similar route.
Onwards and upwards.