I have struggled and continue to struggle with writing this piece. What do I want to say about "Home"? What am I trying to convey? In my experience of being a first generation American, and from what I’ve learned from people in the same boat (absolutely no racist or otherwise pun intended), that particular immigration status often means you don't feel like you get to call anywhere truly yours. Everywhere feels unfamiliar, not quite right. “Home” becomes an elusive concept.
For myself, American born of Nigerian blood, finding a place to land has been no less difficult and confusing. I'm not a Black American, bred of the culture created by descendants of those who were kidnapped and brought to this country in chains. I'm not "American" because, let's be honest, this country is racist AF and the rights and privileges it affords some of its citizens are not available for all of its citizens. (I’ve tried to claim “Southern Californian” but even then, there’s a certain bronze skin/blonde hair stereotype that I really missed the mark on. Little feels more alienating than belting out the lyrics to “California Girls”, being a girl from California, and still knowing the song’s not really about you). I’m not African either — I can barely understand even one of my mother’s native languages, let alone speak it. And you have not known the meaning of “sticking out like a sore thumb” until you’ve seen me in a room with a bunch of Nigerian people having a conversation. It’s not pretty.
Where it becomes mystifying is that despite feeling like I fit none of these categories, I somehow also fit all of them. And in that tension comes this uncomfortable sense that I am always appropriating a culture, namely black and Nigerian. When I visited the country this past week, I was worried I would feel alien, and that calling it home would be assuming something that is not mine. But I discovered that there is something really powerful about going to place where all the street names look like yours. To look at a land and feel “this is from where I have been derived”, and on top of that, appreciate that it is ancient. I still barely know the language, I still mostly sat and smiled pleasantly as people around me held conversation, but the place felt more mine. Obviously San Diego is still home, but now it doesn’t feel like my only one. While it is a little harder on the heart to be split between two places, it's also comforting to gain a richer perspective that focuses the blurry parts of an identity.