Diwali is here (well, almost) and I am seeing that a lot of my friends have booked their tickets for going back home. I see them packing their bags and notice a giddy excitement in their voice. They are happy to go back home and celebrate the festive season with their family and why not? After all, festivals are better when celebrated with your family and loved ones.
However, that makes me realize how I have never felt this happiness when it comes to going back home. I have been living away from my family ever since I moved out of my small town for college. It has been six years since then and the feeling has remained constant. At times, it has even grown. Ironically, this isn’t the case with just festivals. This feeling comes to the surface whenever I have to go home for any reason whatsoever.
Some people might call me a ‘whiny child’ who isn’t grateful for her blessings but that, objectively speaking, isn’t the case. This feeling of dread, where almost every cell of my body is forcing me to not go home, comes with its own share of guilt and pain. There is a feeling of guilt because how can a child not want to go home to her parents? How can a child not want to go home to people who have been her caregivers? How can a child choose to be away from her parents?
The answer to these questions makes me feel guilty. The fact that my parents have always called me selfish and arrogant doesn’t help either. If anything, it makes the feeling worse. Do you know how it feels when you peel a bandaid off a healing wound which is still raw? If I have to explain how this guilt feels, this is exactly it.
However, when I look back I realize that my house back in the city hasn’t been a welcoming space for me. It feels like a brick-and-mortar building. It doesn’t feel like home. It should have been a warm space which would make me feel at ease and be myself. A space for me to learn and grow. A space where I could make mistakes and come back to so that I learn to do better. Every time I am there, though, I am worried about saying the ‘wrong things’ and causing an argument. It feels like I am walking on eggshells. I think of the number of times my choices have been questioned. Questions that pertain to my career, and sometimes even my health.
Every time I am back there, some or the other thing happens that makes me feel good about staying away from them. Someone says or does something that snowballs into something extreme. Finger-pointing, mudslinging, yelling, and the passive-aggressive treatment start getting to you. When I was a child, I could ignore them, but now that I am an adult, I cannot help but try to unearth the reasons. Most of the time, the reasons hurt.
When I go back, I feel like I have come back to square one. The way things function at my house is that there is no space for someone else to raise their points. I think of the time when I was telling them about the medical diagnosis but they never listened to me and shamed me for my sexuality. All I could do after a point was put my head down and listen. Fast forward to two weeks later, the doctor told me I was misdiagnosed.
You need to put your head down and follow things because well, that’s how it has been working at my house. I do miss the romanticized idea of comfort that home exudes. I miss that in the apartment that I am living in currently, but when I look back at the cost at which this comfort comes, I take a step back.
It takes me to a space from which I have healed. It makes me feel like I don’t fit into my own house which shouldn’t be the case for anyone. I dread having to think many times before I say something. I dread the cold shoulder treatment.
The things I lacked in my small town, I am trying to find those pieces so that I can build a home for myself in this alien city. I look at my flatmate who nursed me back to health and got me soup when I was sick and that feels like family. I look at my friend who got me a cheesecake when I told her about a bad day at work. They never asked me to brush it down or “feel a little less.” They heard me and provided me with a safe space that I have always yearned for.
As I write this, I realize I am not the only one who is looking to create a family that isn’t related to blood. Some people feel the same way and a recent viral tweet helped me not beat myself so much.
It is because of these small things that I decide to choose my well-being no matter how much the guilt takes over me. I know a lot of people will still term it “selfish” to choose me over my caregivers at the end of the day. Maybe it will take me a long time to let things go but the hurt is deep. It’s a very un-desi concept to choose yourself first, but I deserve this period where I draw boundaries for my own well-being.