A few days ago I got a phone call from the Bangladesh High Commission here in London, asking for my passport information. A flight is being arranged, they said, and you’re on the list. We’ll get you home.
Home. I’ve long come to believe home is a feeling, not a place. To me, it’s where you feel free to be yourself and you feel safe. If you’re lucky, you also feel loved. Is Dhaka home? Is London home? In my apartment here in London, I live exactly as I want. I am my most me. But I am also lonely. It’s been three weeks since I have talked to another human being in person (“thank you!” to the delivery guy doesn’t count). In Dhaka, I’ll have my parents and my dog in the same house as me. I’ll have to curb my “me-ness” a bit, I expect, but it’ll be okay. As much as I enjoy my freedom, I think right now I might appreciate a hug even more. The “home” you need and crave changes and I wouldn’t be surprised if it did again soon.
Did they call it 2020 vision because they knew this was the year our perspectives would change so drastically, the way we look at the world from here onwards would never be the same? The conversations I have been having the last few days feel surreal. Conversations about a flight that might happen in the next couple weeks, that I have to be prepared for at any time. Conversations about what to pack in one suitcase because I have no idea when I will be able to return, in a month, in two, or in six.
You know how they sometimes ask what is the one thing you would grab if you had to run out because your house was on fire? (I don’t know who asks that but I feel like it’s definitely something I’ve been asked.) Well, I feel like I am doing some “lite” version of that. I get a suitcase and I have to put in it the things that I can’t afford to lose, in case for some reason (anything is possible in coronavirus world) I can’t come back before the lease on my apartment is up. I’ve learned what possessions I value most. I’ve gotten upset about the ones that matter, but would be impractical to take, and I’ve had my closest ones repeatedly tell me, “they’re things, Mubash, they’re just things…”. A picnic blanket I spent lazy afternoons on with my favorite person. A gift of string lights that felt like the first step towards acceptance. My books, the few physical ones I have here. My kitchen utensils, which I’m unreasonably attached too. They don’t feel like just things, they feel like memories and very much a part of what makes me who I am.
Despite all the confusion, frustration, and anxiety, there has been a consistent comforting thought that’s gotten me through. The fact that I’m here, that I made it all this way. You see, a few Ramadans ago, I was at my lowest, mental and physical health wise, and I genuinely believed I would never be able to live independently, to hold a job down, to take on responsibility.
Fast forward a few years, lots of therapy, lots of hard work and patience with myself, lots of love and patience from my inner circle, much self-exploration, many revelations later, and here I am. I have one more degree than I did then, I have a job, I have an apartment, I am independent. I have lived through self-isolation during a global pandemic for 8 weeks now. And here I am, still. I have welcomed another Ramadan into my life, made myself iftar and sehri everyday, and felt more connected to a higher power than I have in a long time. This experience has given me more self-belief and strength than any academic or professional successes ever managed.
I hope one day I come back and read this, and I remember that when things got hard, I was able to keep going. I hope if you’re reading this and life feels ridiculous and unreal, you know that you can too. I hope you’re home, whatever that may mean to you.