We just got back from a trip back to Australia, and after two and a half weeks of whirlwind visits to four cities in three states, almost daily partying and celebration with friends and family, a redeye flight to Kuala Lumpur, a 16-hour layover and a couple of days of truly staggering jetlag, I’m taking stock of what it meant to be home.
I won’t lie, it was hard to leave. Sydney harbour glittered in the summer sun, the bush south of Adelaide crackled underfoot and yielded the gorgeous wines of the McLaren Vale, and the beach in my hometown was an endless yellow strip of sand that I had all to myself. I saw my family for the first time in months, saw one of my best friends who is about to become a mum, another who has been living overseas for two years, had a surprise visit from an old bestie and went to a fabulously happy wedding. And not least importantly, everything just felt so easy. I knew which trains to catch, I didn’t have to worry about what I was wearing, I could sit on the grass in a park and know that no one would question why I was there. It was like a festival of the best that home has to offer.
But something was nagging at me while I was there – it wasn’t all falling into place. I had wanted to do so many things and couldn’t fit it all in – for months I’d fantasised about sleeping in, relaxing on the beach, walking through Sydney city, going to the movies, getting up early and going for runs, seeing everyone I missed, hitting the town and having a few white wines, playing with the family dog, going shopping … But it gradually became obvious that it wasn’t possible to do all those things, not least because some of them were mutually exclusive (sleep in and get up early for yoga?). I wanted home to be everything it had ever been to me. Everything I couldn’t have in Bangladesh, all in the space of three weeks.
And that’s how I realised something important: you can’t live somewhere else and have one foot at ‘home’. While you’re away you need to let go of the wonderful things that make up home, and accept that while you’re gaining a new country and all the wonderful experiences it has to offer, you’re also going to lose some things. You’ll miss your sister’s birthday, the best part of summer, and maybe the birth of a nephew. You won’t be physically able to bring back a supply of cheese big enough to keep you happy until next time you’re back. Some things have to stay behind when you leave. With our suitcases packed with olives and wine and our cameras full of pictures of our most beloved people, we try to combat this reality, but there’s nothing we can do: you can’t bring home with you – and you can’t live a whole life in three weeks.
It’s good to be back in the Desh, living the life that I have here. But I’ve learned to think differently about home: those precious weeks back in Aus are important, but they don’t need to span the emotional sea of the intervening months. Between here and there, I live two lives interleaved, not two lives simultaneously. Now I know that, maybe next time going home won’t be so hard.