The flat is dark and quiet, she is finally asleep and I return to my laptop via the biscuit tin. As the glaring light of the screen hits my sleepy eyes, I stare at my browser disoriented: which section of my Citizenship application did I get to, travel abroad or jobs? It’s meant to be a simpler application. Nonetheless, every time I have to present my life in chronological order with names, dates and addresses, life seems to escape me.
Two lines in bold are staring at me
Line one: “Your qualifying period for applying for British Citizenship is 2015-2020”. I recite slowly - how many time did I start my life over in those five years?
Line two: “2018 - really?”
My head falls into my hands. There is where I left my application: to the emptiness of my calendar in 2018. No travels abroad. No events recorded. Nothing.
I push the desk away from me and meander aimlessly around my flat, making space for memories to bubble back up the surface.
Separating from the father of my daughter wasn’t my preference and yet I named the obvious and initiated the process of disentangling our lives. Winter that year was veiled by tears and by the incessant raising of many questions.
The life I built, had crumbled in front of my eyes and yet the question that kept me awake at night was: “Where do I belong?”.
My motherland looked gorgeous as ever and the desire of nesting into my culture was visceral. However, returning there was not a possibility. Moving our baby into two new homes was painful enough as it was. Adding lands and seas in between our homes seemed just inconceivable.
The longing for belonging almost derailed me back then. I sink in the sofa with my hands full of my notebooks from 2018. Words fill page after page, notebook after notebook.
If I didn’t belong to this country or that country, where did I belong? To my housing community, my work, my friends? All my life I had such a strong desire to be part of something larger than me and looked for belonging everywhere. It was through my family break up and the lacerating pain of separating from my baby that I stepped into a new dimension of vulnerability.
My imperfect self emerged to the light and I was met by my own love.
I was done with looking for approval and recognition from external achievements.
I was done with fitting into a new culture. I was done with moulding myself to please others.
I stepped into my difference and wore it with kind boldness.
I discovered that belonging is not a feeling for someone, somewhere or even something, but is a skill we can all learn - belonging to our selves.
As I return to my desk and my laptop I realised that I might not have travelled anywhere in 2018 but I have dived into my inner territories and returned home to myself. I submit my citizenship application knowing that acquiring this immigration status will not define me, nor my sense of belonging.
I don’t belong to a culture, a place, a person - I belong to myself.