Those were the words uttered to me by my friends girlfriend. It was the first time I had met her, she was in the kitchen making some Kenyan dishes, some chapati and samosa, this are pain staking dishes and we rarely get to eat them. So walking into the house and smelling the food scent coming out of the kitchen was a sure way to make us pull a sit and wait.
I went into the kitchen for some small talk to keep her company while she was cooking, the men were outside hanging out, and LO was not feeling well so I was holding her. It had been a long day driving around looking for a house with the baby throwing up at a would be landlord. So walking into the house with that familiar smell of food brought some comfort and sense of belonging.
We started with the regular small talk of how long have you been in the states for, when was the last time you visited Kenya, do you have any family around?
She told me she had been to Kenya the year before, Wow, I exclaimed with a lot of envy as I continued to explain to her I hadn’t been home in 3 years and my family hadn’t met my baby yet. She seemed to think 3 years was still a short time for someone to get to the point where you were ready to go visit. She had been here for 15years and the first time she was able to go visit was after 5 years. She told me how from her personal experience and observation that’s about how long it takes people to get settled enough to be able to make travel arrangements to go home.
She then continued to tell me how I wasn’t missing much by not going home,how every time she went home she felt like she didn’t fit in and how she always felt like time was moving so slow because all people did was sit, eat and drink. She works two jobs here and when shes at home she has such a hard time relaxing because she keeps feeling like their is something she is meant to be doing.
I explained to her that that was my fear, I didn’t not want to not fit in, I did not want to drift apart with my family and friends, while I was still living in Kenya, I had seen on numerous occasions people coming to visit from the US and them standing out because they looked like a deer in head lights, I didn’t understand why they seemed to stand out or why they didn’t carry on with the lively conversations we were having, but to some extent now I understand. Its not the kind of life you get accustomed to when your away from home. When your away from home there is this me,myself and I attitude you need in order to survive, and when you go home it might take some adjusting to, to be able to adjust to that community-ness that exists.
After I was done explaining my fears to her, she had one piece of advise, ”my dear choose one life to live and live it, I have seen a lot of people fail because they are trying to live two lives, one in Kenya and one here. If you try to do that you will fail, for instance if you try and buy a house here and buy a house there at some point you will end up stretching yourself too thin, so if you want to be happy and successful you need to concentrate on building your life here”
Those words haunted me for a while, I thought about them, did she make sense, was I wasting a lot of time and energy on what-if’s? Was I consumed in keeping my relationships alive with people back home and thus wasting a lot of time and energy on something that will eventually die out, she had told me her and her siblings don’t really have a lot to say to each other anymore and they used to be so close, its natural for your relationships to end because your lives and problems become so different.
But are human beings that simple, that you can simply switch off a part of ourselves? Are we not more complex in our individualism and relationships?
Asking me to choose is as unfair as asking a biracial person to pick one race.
I as a person are more deep with my roots penetrated deep in my home country, exposed with my immigration status, and complex with so many layers that come together to make me.
I am more than where I live, I am more than who I associate, I am more than what I aspire.
I cannot just choose one because it takes more that one aspect to make me, I am a woman, I am a girl, I am a mother, I am a wife, I am a daughter, I am a sister, I am a Kenyan, I am an immigrant, I am who I am and I refuse to choose one.