The yearnings to go there started when I was a child, say about 8 or 9 years old and by the time I was 12, I had already begun writing poetry about Africa, drawing pictures of African fashion, landscapes and people in my sketchpad.
You may know what this feels like because you, too, have a calling. Mine is to live and work in Africa. I really don’t want to be sappy or cliché about it because it is such a precious voice that I still hear every day. I grew up in the American south and in 2010, at 24 years old, I started finding my way home. I answered the call.
First stop Kenya, then Nigeria, Senegal, then back to Nigeria. These are the countries where I chose to take up residence and when I was not living in them, I was traveling through other African countries reporting on ground for days at a time and hopping from one hotel to the next. As a child, I had romanticized the continent so much in my head that I had no choice but to love it upon arrival. So that’s what I did. I loved it without shame.
I imagined that being in Africa would heal all my pains of feeling so out of place in America, but that’s not exactly what happened. Nigeria was challenging for me because my expectations of it were so high, the reason being that I am Nigerian. There, I realized that home is more complex than I had imagined. I mused on that reality for a piece I wrote on Medium. It starts like this:
So, I’ll end this post with the same line of thought that I ended the Medium essay with. When I left America to move to Africa, I was finding my way home because I was answering a calling to begin a journey that matters just as much as the destination. I am enjoying my journey through Africa and wherever I end up is wherever I’ll end up. I’ll be OK there.
Are you home?