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I think I was around 10 years old when I learned about my family members that lived in different parts of the world: Canada, the U.S., and Europe. Some happened to be part of my nuclear family, close members that I had never met and likely to never meet, because they had "refused" to come back home—Rwanda home.
As a 10-year-old, I remember feeling some kind of resentment behind the voices that were almost accusing these family members of not wanting to come back, to work for their country, to serve their motherland especially after the genocide against Tutsis in 1994, now that it was safe to go back home. Why did they not want to come and live in a place that gave birth to them? It sounded like resentment or judgment maybe? I don't know what it was... it just wasn't loving and if it was, it was a demanding kind of loving, "you owe me your presence kind of loving."
Then I grew up, and I was old enough to have conversations on the phone with these people that I had never met, but the bonding was instant. Well, I mean they are family, and I was raised to love and accept whoever is family, so as our conversations grew I fell in love with people that understood me so well, yet were so far. It was always exciting, at the end of every month, on Saturday nights we would talk and try to say everything at once because airtime was never on our side and WhatsApp wasn't a thing yet. -_- My heart grew fond of them until I couldn't help but want to ask the question that would change everything... "when are you coming home?"
Today, I am asked that question every now and then. Of course, it is still a bit too early for the pressure. Right now it is more about "when are you getting married?" or "when are we going to see your man?" or "you need to start thinking about these things," you know? Those kinds of questions that you simply cannot avoid as long as you are a daughter of African parents (I wish it was even my parents asking me these questions, oh well!), but they are always accompanied by "when are you coming home?" and "aren't you done with school?" (Answer: No, I am currently doing my Masters, but okay.)
The only thing that keeps me from erupting with emotions is the fact that these are people that are dear to my heart, and they are only asking the questions that I once asked my cousins and aunts... with the heart that I asked it with, so I forgive those questions because they forgave mine.
The truth is, sometimes it takes leaving home for you to learn home. Sometimes it takes you to leave home, to learn you, to find you. While being away from home can be the loneliest thing, it forces you to find love in yourself, to reach out to yourself, to hug yourself so tight, and to wipe your own tears.
Sometimes leaving home opens your eyes to realities that were well kept from you.
Sometimes leaving home teaches you words like "depression," words that you knew so well in action without knowing its name.
Sometimes leaving home gives you the permission to finally define yourself without the fear of being judged by those that "love" you and judge you simultaneously.
Sometimes leaving home gives you space and permission to question everything that you were once fed, beliefs and traditions that molded you into the person that you are, and allowing you to pick and choose what you want to keep or not.
Sometimes leaving home allows you to be you. It allows you to be stretched till going home is what you want the most.
Sometimes leaving home switches on your ability to process emotions as they are, to be able to listen to yourself when you are feeling pain, anger, frustration, or just sadness without having to fold them into "oh! I'm just stressed."
Sometimes leaving home shows you all the good things that home has given to you: The warmth that home gave you at birth, the spirit of resilience that you inherit when you come from a place that was saved by resilience, the ability to share even when the only thing you have is a bag of Cheetos, and the ability to hug and effortlessly comfort those that come your way.
Sometimes leaving home gives you the permission to not smile if you don't want to, to not hug if you do not feel like it, to not give when you feel empty, to vent, to complain without feeling guilty or ungrateful.
Sometimes leaving home gives you the life that home cannot afford to give you.
Sometimes leaving home is living the life home wanted you to live.
Sometimes leaving home is the only way to forgive home. To forgive the fact that there is a life you will never know, to forgive those that hurt your father and mother, to forgive those that stabbed you in the back while they were holding you with their free hand, to forgive yourself for not speaking up when your uncle put his hands where they didn't belong... to forgive yourself for ignoring yourself.
People chose to not go back home for different reasons. People who chose not to go back home, do not always hate home, and if they do, home will find a way to reach out to their broken hearts... maybe through a phone call... maybe not...
The truth is:
Sometimes leaving home... is the only way to forgive home.