I can count the short trips I have taken to Nigeria on two hands.
The motherland therefore did not mother me directly. Rather, it kneaded me through the faithful scolding of my mother, the unfailing bravado of my father, and the relatives of no blood relation that I often bowed low to. They carved out hopeful spaces of belonging in South East London, and I never really noticed their efforts to create a home for me while away from their own.
I was a child of diaspora: awkward, anxious and unsure yet, youthfully overconfident in the same instance. The decision to move to Oakville, Canada was my father’s, and I am still not quite sure where it came from. Regardless, it was a warm, comforting refrain to my awkward ears. My weirdness, blackness and gender were all ailments that had left me spoken about but rarely spoken to in my South East London high school. However, my resolve did waver. I was happy to turn my back on my city, to shake the dust and power on. I was also terrified that I would never find another city to call my own.
Heralding my departure on the 27th of July, the London 2012 Olympics began and my family and I set off for Oakville. My expectations never quite made it off the plane. The humidity hugged me tightly, as if we had known each other for years. Filling my lungs, seeping into every fold, Oakville’s weather was the first sign that my months of dreaming, wishing and expecting had been futile. The landscape was vast and sparsely populated, while the roads were shockingly wide. In the months to come I would be left reeling, grasping for home in whatever I could find. Moving here was not the dream that I had woven together in my mind’s eye. I could not see myself in the bodies that bumped and brushed against me in my new high school’s hallways. I was one of sixteen black people in a school of 1500 students, and I was often reminded of my difference. I longed for a more densely populated city like Toronto or Mississauga, where signs of life danced into view or earshot often, and the chances of seeing a cute black boy were significantly higher. Ironically, a year after moving I myself chose to move to Waterloo, a university and a town that mimicked a lot of the features and associated disappointments of Oakville.
I do not blame timing, lack of knowledge, my family or myself for these experiences. To admit this feels strange, but Oakville and Waterloo and the experiences that they have exposed me to are now a part of me. They are a part of my voice, that takes up space and fills up a room. They are a part of my mind that no longer accepts my own expectation and understanding as truth. Finally, they are a part of my hunger and appreciation for South East London, my city and my home.
This post was originally featured on Travellersofcolour.com.