The first time I went to Nigeria I was 11 years old, 12 years later at 23, I went back.
A whole lot had changed.
I have spent the last few years trying to situate myself, my heritage and my race in a very white world. I have felt the need to justify who I am and my existance in the country I call home. I have felt pushed to explain myself to the world, entering spheres and situations where I believed I had to legitimise my identity. That is a really weird place to be in and it’s exhausting.
I am not going to change myself, I am so proud of me. But there comes a point when you start to become tired of explaining and justifying yourself and your existance. I want to grow, I want to put that energy into making things better, changing things.
I felt ready to go to Nigeria this time, I wanted to go back, especially writing this blog. I wanted to be able to understand and embrace my heritage, to talk about the country my parents call home with my own words after seeing it through my own eyes, rather than the photographs and stories of my parents. I was excited, I was so excited, but I was also terrified. I had that old age worry that I wouldn’t fit in.
But I shouldn’t have worried because instinct kicks in.
My mum is one of 6 and her siblings and her have 24 children between them, we are a big family. My mum had always emphasised the importance of family to us but I didn’t really quite get it until I was surrounded by them. I never quite understood what it means to be part of something bigger than yourself that is so full of love.
I’m the fourth eldest and the eldest girl and I point this out because one of the first things I felt was that my family is dominated by strong, loud and intelligent women and I feel so proud to be part of that. I feel at home in that.
Seeing my mum and her five siblings all standing together in the same room for the first time in over 20 years makes my heart so full and calm. You cannot put a price on moments like that. I feel incredibly grateful and very, very lucky to know where I come from and to know where my parents come from, to have found somewhere I will always belong and to be able to say with pride, “my family in Nigeria”.
Usually I would be all up for sharing this trip but I haven’t wanted to, our time in Lagos was so precious and sacred and it was about family and I want to keep that all to myself.
As my brother and I sat on our flight back to London I found myself kind of clutching my Nigerian passport with pride. I have thought, wrote and spoke about my identity and my heritage for years. It has taken up a lot of my mind and my energy and that’s okay and it’s good because I have needed to have the difficult conversations and uncomfortable thoughts and I needed, like every human to attempt to situate myself in this world.
But for now, those feelings have kind of drifted away and I feel at peace.
I feel like I have finally found a piece of myself.