Ode To This Land

Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr

“I sold my recliner yesterday. It was so strange. You know, I got really sad and ended up hugging it and saying my goodbye to it? I’ve moved around so much in my life but this one feels much harder. I can’t understand why.”

“Because this one is not your choice.”

“Oh.”

I had the above conversation with my best friend last night. For months, I have struggled with this feeling. I have tried to delay checking out houses, finding resources, and doing anything that I could do to delay the inevitable – allowing myself to feel the sadness of leaving a place, maybe the only place, I felt at home.

Growing up, we moved around a lot as a family. I left the city I was born in when I was just three but still have a special attachment to it. I spent my school years in four different cities and five different schools, and the next twelve years in five different cities and in two different countries. Any time I would make a group of close friends, it would be time for me to leave for a new destination – sometimes by choice, sometimes for lack of one.

Every time I moved, I would feel excited about what was to come. Struggling as a newbie in a new city would be tough but eventually, I would find a way to make it work. If it didn’t, I would move again. I’ve made friends across these places, some who are still in contact and some who I parted ways with. There are some good memories and some bad associated with all these places but I have never regretted moving on. I’ve also never given myself enough time to say goodbye to these places. Yes, there were farewells and goodbye exchanges but never to the entire experience that that place had to offer.

However, this time it feels different. I feel like I am leaving behind a part of me or maybe multiple parts. This time it feels different because, with all the experiences that this place had to offer, I felt more at home here than afar. This goodbye is for the land which felt the closest to me coming home.

I came to this country in 2018. In my confusion about which college to choose, the uncertainty of the future of my relationship, and my dilemma about leaving my loved ones behind, I didn’t give myself enough time to prepare for the move. The decision to come to this country was made two months before leaving and all the remaining time was spent in paperwork and packing for the new life. The move hit me hard after I arrived in the new place. With no one to call a friend and so many new things to learn, I felt alone. Past hurts and trauma started to resurface without me understanding why. Depression took hold of me and I started to doubt my decision to move. Relationships I had held onto started to fade away and life started to look much darker than ever. Looking at the sky, one cold midwest winter, I observed how dark my surroundings looked. It wasn’t the darkness of the evening but the darkness that I felt within – a lack of light, a lack of peace, and a lack of love.

In my darkest times, this land offered me a hand that slowly but steadily started to pull me out of my own darkness – therapy. Speaking to my therapists and learning about myself became the crutch that I needed to keep going. Months after months, I started to unpack my trauma, unlearn beliefs and patterns that didn’t serve me well anymore, understand my psyche, and see myself more clearly.

The five years that I’ve spent here have not been the easiest, to say the least. If anything, I have experienced more ups and downs here than anywhere else I have lived. I went through a breakup with someone I thought I’ll marry, lost a job during the pandemic, went through an awakening that shattered my world, injured myself in more ways than one, fell in love and felt loved, came out to half of my family and to most of my friends, got promoted at work and got in touch with my creative side. Throughout these times, while therapy gave me an outlet and a platform to heal, the journey itself was no piece of cake. It was hard to witness years of trauma stored in my body, feel the unprocessed emotions stored in various corners of my psyche, and become aware of the repressed memories tucked away in boxes. When you commit to healing yourself, it takes your entire being to surrender to that healing. Sometimes you cry in the middle of the night, sometimes you feel scared of the darkness within you, and most of the time you feel like you’re all alone in your fight.

At such times, this land gave me hope in the form of therapists and spiritual healers. They gave me the space I needed to open up, guided me, and helped me deal with the numerous wounds that were waiting to be treated. They gave me the love and support I needed to feel “normal” and helped me see the light in me. At times when I had lost hope, they gave me the motivation I needed to keep going. At times when I felt like there was no way out, they became the friend I needed to find the strength within me. When I had believed the world and those close to me who thought I was lying, these therapists and healers asked me to believe in my truth and told me that I was gifted. When I was too scared to take a step without falling, they guided me to ground myself and take it one moment at a time. When no one believed me and in me, they asked me to ignore the messages and believe in myself. These unfamiliar faces became my guides, friends, and teachers who helped me every step of the way to ensure that I survive and come out the other side alive.

Yet throughout the journey, I craved. I craved a friend, a companion who wouldn’t doubt my truth and just for once, hold me and tell me that I was not insane. I longed for someone to hear me and let me feel a little less lonely on my journey. I told a friend I recently met, “I wish I had met you earlier. It has been lonely. But it’s already time to say goodbye.” It has been hard to make and maintain relationships in this land. Very few people stayed till the end and I guess I had a role to play in it too. When I was struggling with my identity, I found it hard to relate to people who didn’t know my truth or didn’t understand my truth. When I was struggling with childhood trauma, it became hard to fake happiness and to lose myself in relationships, parties, and booze. And when I experienced something esoteric, the only way I had was to go inside.

Yet, this land offered me support in the form of connections that influenced and challenged me in their own way. Starting with meeting a person whose openness about her sexuality made me question my secrecy. To a friend who adopted me as her own and chooses to do so till this date. A friend who I lost on the way but who in her own ways left a mark on me. A lover who offered me support without understanding the depths of my struggles and finally, a lover who offered me the one thing I had longed for – for someone to believe in my story without doubting my truth.

But all connections didn’t come to me as friends or lovers. Some of them were there as colleagues and mentors. From a colleague who believed in his gut to get to know me more only to realize we’re more similar than different and took the role of a cheerleader along the way. To a manager who continuously chose to believe in my worth even when I had little to offer, cherishing me, guiding me, and laying out opportunities for me to become the person I am today. Finally, a leader, who took the role of a mother at a time when I was scared of drowning. Without asking me why she gave me what I wanted and became a pillar that I needed.

Yes, some of these were passing connections. Some came and left without much explanation. But they all played their parts in helping me get to where I am today.

This land showed me a way of life I was not familiar with yet gave me the tools to make it through. The city and the apartment I am in for the past year, have called out to me as home since my first day here. This is where I wanted to come back to after my first trip some three years back. This is where I chose to live by myself despite the challenges of the night. This is where I explored myself and found what I had been hiding my entire life. This is where I cried, loved, walked, broke, and survived.

In the past five years in this land, I have broken down mentally, emotionally, and physically. To the point that I asked my ex to write a story of my journey in her words if and when she chooses so that another Tanu knows that she too can survive (she’s a much better storyteller). When emotional and mental turmoil was not enough, my body gave in to back aches and finally to a broken foot. Yet, this land held me as its own. It gave me rest and solitude when I didn’t know that was what I needed. It gave me sun and now a downpour of rain as if to let me know that it’s all washed away.

Oh! the love I have for this strange land where I wasn’t born but where I died and survived multiple deaths. Words are not enough to show my gratitude to this holy land that I called home and will always cherish as the place where I was born again. Here is where I met myself and found ways to balance myself. Its trees, streams, skies, and streets – all stayed with me throughout my time. They offered me love and shelter when I had none, and showed me the right way to love. It taught me gratitude and broke down my illusions. It gave me peace and taught me what it means to surrender. Away from the noise of the cities, it showed me what it’s like to connect. It showed me the suffering of the masses and taught me to love without asking.

One blog will not be enough to speak volumes of my love. Even while I write, I can’t help but grieve and cherish the memories of the past five years. There will be more tears to flow and more healing to come. There will be more memories to rejoice and more times to mourn. But right now, I take the first steps to surrender to what’s to come and grieve the loss of the land I love.

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