I have a friend who wants so desperately to leave her parent’s house. She wants her own space. The ability to go where she wants when she wants. To stay up late, party, drink, and smoke. She always says that all she wants is her independence.
At 22, I never thought I would consider giving up my independence. The proverbial wet dream of every angsty teenager. Yet, I’ve started to consider what I would give up for it. After 7 years of this bittersweet freedom called “independence”, I realized I might just give it up to run back to my parent’s house. No, I haven’t lost my mind. Seriously. And yes, I have friends. Loads. I even have family. So I’m not “alone”. Yet I guess I’m just the sum of a life lived too independently, too long, maybe even too early.
At a tender age, similar to many other Nigerians, I was sent to boarding school. There, I learned to wake up early, to clean up after myself, wash my own clothes, and handle my own money. Most importantly, I learned to make decisions for myself. For eight months, I would live with a make shift family of my “paddies”. A sisterhood made of my fellow boarding school girls, our kinship sculpted by the tough but shared experiences of Nigerian boarding school life. And then at the end of each term, I would go home. Sometimes I would enjoy being in my father’s house. It was never really *my* house. It was the house my father built. It was…nice. It was in a nice estate. Great architecture. But at 15, it felt like a mausoleum. Impersonal. But nice. I had my own space. A large room with a big bed. The best part was that I had my parents to dote on and be doted on for the brief periods between boarding school. So I enjoyed it. A brief, but welcome interlude from my hellish but fun boarding school life.
Then I graduated and left for university. That 8 months became 11 months and 2 weeks away from home. Out of the _ weeks in a year, I would get barely 10 days with my family. Initially I loved it. For 11 months I would be free to do whatever I wanted. Free to experience life, make mistakes without being berated, find myself. It was amazing. No one to tell me what to do or how to act. I could wear that dress with my bar strap showing. I could go to that shady club. My decisions were all completely up to me with very little supervision.
And then I got to law school. Less friends. Definitely no sisterhood. And while I missed my friends from high school and university, overall I realized I missed my family the most. At night, after a long day of class, I would find myself daydreaming of home. I now wanted to be in that cold mausoleum. I craved it. I dreamed of messing it up with my clothes and belongings. I wanted to warm it up with my cooking. I wanted to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my parents and family. I wanted long drives from the mainland to Lagos island. Buying suya at night with my dad. Haggling in the market with my mom. I missed laughing with them, fighting with them, being so fed up of them that I couldn’t wait to leave their house.
Instead, I got independence. I independently moved into a new place for law school. One bedroom. I independently went grocery shopping and cooked for myself. Bon Apetit. I filed my taxes, went clubbing, travelled on weekends, worked, studied. All by myself, all the time. Hashtag adulting.
But then my nights were filled with long distance calls and lengthy video conferences to my friends, my siblings, and my parents. Living the life of a quasi-international student with no parents in the country, , made me realize how terribly alone I was in the world. Listening to my Canadian colleagues and classmate describing their weekends and holidays spent with their family, I started getting jealous. When was the last day I celebrated a mother’s day with my mother? It’s crazy how the mind changes as we get older. Maybe because it’s the grass on the other side, it all of a sudden seems so much greener. After years of wanting to run away from my parent’s house and finally start living, I feel like I lived enough. And now I just want the comfort of my parents and the stability of a home. Maybe as I get older I’m becoming more nostalgic. Maybe I’m just a homebody. All I’m saying is what’s the point of independence if you’re always home alone?