Departure: UK — Destination: Unknown
It was the moment I stepped off the airplane that the thought suddenly occurred to me, I had no clue what I was doing. One moment I was in cool, conditioned air, and the next, I was walking into a blanket of humidity, a tell-tale sign that I was now on new terrain. I struggled to breathe under the sticky heat, my movement felt heavier and within minutes my face was covered in a film of perspiration. We’d arrived.
For weeks before this, I was anxious wondering whether this would even happen. Rising COVID cases and a climbing death toll was making it incredibly likely that the UK would be heading towards a nationwide lockdown, which is inevitably what happened. I spent so much time bracing myself for the disappointment that I didn’t leave much thought to what would happen once I boarded the flight.
As I walked further into the airport towards passport control, reality started to set in. What had I done?
In theory, I had taken a flight from the UK to Lagos, Nigeria something I’d done many times before.
In actuality, I’d taken a big step, uprooting myself into uncertainty, unclear of the outcomes or what would come next — we’d packed up our house and bags and moved overseas.
This was a massive leap, one of many I seemed to be taking recently. I was using vague notions of gut instinct and intuition to steer myself toward an unclear future. On the surface, my recent decisions looked random and unplanned, like the beginnings of an existential crisis.
In principle, deciding to move countries during a global crisis was in part to appease an internal crisis. It just made sense. I thought that by moving I could jumpstart my life again, infuse a spark back into my reality because I seemed to be stagnating. I’d spent the last few years exploring multiple options and I was beginning to run out of ideas. But maybe if I left the comfort of what I knew behind, then I’d be forced to come up with something new which could lead me down a whole other path.
I mean that’s what I was hoping for. I was uprooting myself because I needed change.
And even though I knew all the reasons why I got on that flight, part of me was still nervous about the next few months ahead.
This was so uncharacteristic for me. I don’t think of myself as adventurous or brave. I preferred to be safe and know what the future had in store for me by planning ten steps ahead. I liked to control outcomes or at least be prepared for them. But here I was, in a new country, the next few months a blank open page.
Was I making a mistake? Having an unclear goal frightened me. The uncertainty played on my mind as I slept and I’d have bouts of worry that I would soothe by journaling. The fact of the matter was that I didn’t have a plan, no clue as to what would happen even four months from now.
To placate myself, I imagined I was following in Elizabeth Gilbert’s footsteps like in the book EAT, PRAY, LOVE. Instead of visiting Italy, India and Bali, I’d do all the eating and praying and loving here.
I thought about how much I could learn about myself by being in a new environment. All the challenges I might face that would help with my growth.
The first challenge would be adjusting. The fact of the matter is that though I’m Nigerian, I’m much more acclimatized to the ‘western lifestyle’ having been raised in Britain my whole life. The cold efficiency of a rigid, unyielding system, the type you see in ‘developed’ countries was what I was used to and on some level, preferred. Moving to West Africa would mean adjusting to a different way of life, to a more fluid, flexible sometimes pervious system of living.
Even as I wrote this the lights went out and I was pitched into near darkness with only the dying afternoon sunlight straining through the dark curtains.
I was going to have to be flexible. If I wasn’t, I’d be in a constant state of comparison that would blind me to the beauty of my surroundings. I’d be clouding my experiences with the expectations of how things should be, those ideals inevitably rooted in a British perspective of how I was used to things being. What would be the point of traveling thousands of miles to re-enact some semblance of what I was leaving behind? Instead, I would accept the situations for what they were, and from there, react appropriately.
So yes, things would be different but perhaps that would be good for me. Plus, I was lucky. The opportunity arose for me to relocate and the privilege to be able to do so was not lost on me.
And if luck was one part of the equation then I needed to supply the other parts: effort, patience, persistence, consistency, all the things I would need to make the most of the months ahead of me.