I’ve been struggling the past few weeks to feel comfortable being here—in this place, in this time, and in this city.
I know, I know. I’m supposed to be grateful that I live in Australia, the “lucky country,” home to over ten thousand beaches. I’m supposed to relish the sunny, barely even cold winters, and our beautiful, warm coastal summers—and I do. Sydney has been my home for the past five years, and it’s given me so much space and freedom to discover who I am.
When I moved here from Egypt, establishing myself in the beginning was difficult. I went through many hoops just to be able to feel settled and secure, like any immigrant. Even though I was a citizen by descent through my grandparents, having a passport wasn’t enough to guarantee a smooth journey of becoming.
I’m aware that it’s a privilege to be in this position, where I’m in a country with good healthcare, education, incredible natural landscape, and great weather. Oh and did I mention coffee? It is the motherland of impeccable soy flat whites.
Even though I feel lucky and thankful that I’m here, especially with Sydney having low COVID-19 numbers, I feel trapped. With no travel freedom on the horizon and Australia having strict border control, I can’t help but feel like I’m being forced to stay put for another year while the whole world is slowly easing its restrictions.
But beyond travel, something inside me is feeling supremely uneasy with being here. Like I’m itching to leave my own skin, my apartment, and just wanting to run faster than I’ve ever run, toward a destination I’ve never been to.
I’ve been feeling lately that I need a radical change of lifestyle. I need my shoes to get to know new pavement and my eyes to absorb different hues and gradients of a foreign sky. I want to step out and hear a peculiar hum or a bird’s chirp that I’ve never heard before. I want to hear the sound of ocean waves crashing, fiercely or gently, in any way that it is distinctive to its character, and I want to softly understand it in a silent conversation, like beginning to know a new friend. I just want to stop this train I’m on and get off to find myself in a whole new life.
I’m feeling a big call to abandon structure and rules. To start my days and end my days in unfamiliar ways. I’m ready to be receptive to experiences and to feel them. Over the last few years, when I was understanding my past traumas and healing my childhood wounds, I was too busy living inside my senses and in my head to accept and pull anything external in. But now my internal and external worlds are merging and there is less and less dissociation between the two. It’s been a slow burning awakening and integration of the different parts of myself.
Yet, I’m torn. Because while I want to go into uncharted territory, I also deeply want to go back to everything I used to know that defined me. Maybe I need to visit the places I once knew and that once knew me, so I can perceive myself and the world in a different light. Maybe I need to go back to my family home, sleep in my childhood bed, and snooze back to a less enlightened time when things were simpler, because I’m stressed. Maybe it’s all of it, but all I know is that right now I just want to go home.
I’m homesick more than I’ve ever been before.
In Egypt, chaos tinctures the air with novelty. If you have a plan, it’s likely going to get interrupted by something. Not a great thing when it happens all the time, but boy does it keep you on your feet.
I’m craving the familiar warmth and speed of the wind on my face, the long night drives home on dimly lit roads, the smell of the air after it rains or when they hose down the hot pavement to cool down the streets in summer and a mildly dusty, relaxing smell lingers.
I miss seeing people content with what they have, even when it’s not much. I miss the man selling mint or limes on the street with a smile on his face that would make you think he’s the richest man in the world. The boy balancing stacks of bread on his head while he rides his bike to deliver it, with one hand—like a boss. Or the family of four sitting on one motorcycle, driving up on the highway. The kids on their school buses laughing and waving at people in their cars: I always waved back. The people crossing the road with no traffic lights to prompt them, just simply through eye contact, a hand gesture, or an intuitive nod to the driver signalling an unspoken permission to pass.
I miss seeing people react spontaneously to their surroundings. In many ways, these visuals were a source of laughter and genuine joy that permeated throughout my day. There’s usually a constant supply of that, wherever you go.
I know that if I think about the politics in Egypt, or the injustices, sexual harassment, and patriarchal male-dominant coding that’s embedded within the culture, this would be enough to turn me away from wanting to go back. But I’ve realised hometown comforts are still comforts at the end of the day. What happens to the country on a political, socioeconomic level will always change, but how we feel inside and the memories we have associated with the place rarely ever change.
Last night I felt like I would give anything just to be back home with my mum, sister, and brother. I was down. Frazzled and feeling hopeless about being on my own here rather than being back there enjoying an Egyptian Summer. I even found myself listening to old hardcore metal from back in high school, bands like Creed and Tool, feeling pissed off, but it felt like I re-experienced the same permission to be angry that I experienced as I teenager. I saw how I deprived myself from feeling and expressing anger for a long time. It felt great, a trance-like state of energy release that I never doubted or censored myself from feeling as a kid.
I gave myself permission to feel everything I needed to feel, without the filter of propriety. I brewed myself a cup of Habaa, a herb grown in the mountains of Sinai, and I had it within the comforts of my room feeling like I got an invisible nod of approval from bedouins miles away. This sweet tea is an experience, a ritual that pulls me back into a still headspace. It’s strange, but I’ve often felt like I can see more clearly after it, and feel how far my breath travels down my chest from how relaxing it is.
While I’m aching to go home and can’t, I think of everyone else who is in the same place, and I know I’m not alone. I know that someone, somewhere out there is feeling like they also want to go back to where they feel like they belong. To the place where no explanations are needed, where the land understands you and greets you. The place where the effortlessness of the common language washes away the sticky translations we’ve been making for so long.
This isn’t a nostalgic ode to Egypt, but rather a letter to myself and anyone who, at this moment, is grieving that home is far away from them.
You will be okay.
You are okay.
Matter of fact, you’re doing so well every day, waking up and being who you are. What a gift you bring to the world.
Though your feet may feel restless at times, and you may find yourself anxious about feeling like you do not belong in one place, know that you don’t need to feel like you have to choose anything right now.
You simply waking up and showing your face to the world is you also sending a shining ray of light back to your hometown saying, “Home, I see you and I feel you within my heart, but today I’m getting up to live where my own two feet stand.” And your hometown is always saying, “Go where you can thrive, carry me in spirit, feel me in your roots, and you will always belong no matter where you go.”
There may be many borders between here and there, but you are being shown a greater lesson in learning to soften the borders and barricades between yourself and your own heart. Be patient.
You may think that physical distance is at the heart of this struggle, but remember you don’t need much to feel the sweetness of your soul and your own company. The relationship you have with yourself is the longest and most important relationship you’ll ever have.
Remember that no thing, no situation ever lasts forever. One day this discomfort will be a memory of the past, and you will come to understand the transient nature of it all.
Above all, know that you’re missing home, because there is much to be loved about home. You shouldn’t have to push away your longing for what feels like a part of who you are. Miss your home. Love your home. Pray for your home. Then go out into the world and live as though your home just got a whole lot bigger.