Crossing continents for contentment: an immigrant’s perspective on the pursuit of happiness.
Have you ever asked yourself how UK citizens manage to survive the stifling rules and regulations imposed by the state? I, for one, have pondered this question for years. It seems as if they possess an indomitable spirit that defies all odds, but feel free to prove me otherwise.
I cannot help but admire the resilience of the people in this part of the world. Despite living in a society where every move is monitored and recorded, they find a way to keep going. It is as if the state has built a cage around them, but they have found a way to thrive in it. As an outsider looking in, I am amazed by their ability to live siloed lives in contrast to what I am familiar with - a sense of community.
As I sit here typing away at my keyboard, I can't help but feel a sense of longing for the community that I left behind in Nigeria, West Africa. It has been just over four years since I moved to the UK to pursue my studies, and while I have adapted to life here, I feel a sense of nostalgia for the way things used to be.
Growing up in Nigeria, community and belonging were the order of the day. It was a place where everyone felt obligated to contribute positively to the upbringing of others. Even when times were tough for my family, we knew that we could rely on the nature of our communities and friends to come out victorious.
But here in the UK, things are different. It can often feel like everyone is out for themselves, with little regard for the people around them. It is a stark contrast to the sense of community that I grew up with.
Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the opportunities that the UK has afforded me. But there are times when I feel like an outsider like I don't quite fit in. It can be a lonely experience, navigating a new culture and trying to make a life for yourself.
As a 'journey just come', as we call it back home, I have had to learn how to adapt and find my place in this new environment and it has been a challenging journey, one that has truly tested my resilience and perseverance.
There are things that I still find difficult to comprehend though. For instance, the concept of working to simply survive, as opposed to pursuing a career that brings fulfilment and satisfaction. I've observed that many people work in jobs that they don't enjoy and often express their dissatisfaction. Although this concept is not unique to the UK, it is much more apparent here than where I come from. Actually, it is somewhat foreign to me, as I've always believed that finding a career that aligns with one's passions and interests is key to living a fulfilling and meaningful life.
Additionally, the idea of paying rent on a monthly basis has been a culture shock for me. In my home country, it is common to pay rent annually, providing a full year to plan and prepare for the expense. However, here, paying rent each month can feel like a never-ending cycle of stress and pressure, with the constant need to work extra hours and hustle just to make ends meet.
There is no denying that living in the UK has its advantages compared to Nigeria, but there are still some things, no matter how small, that can evoke feelings of nostalgia and even make one second-guess their decision to leave home in the first place. The larger issues of race and identity also play a significant role in this decision, but ultimately it is up to each individual to decide what is best for themselves. In making this decision, how can we live in our present reality without comparing it to where we have come from? Also, is the price we pay, in terms of leaving behind our home, culture, and loved ones, truly justifiable when compared to the potential gains of this move? Can we boldly assert that relocating for ‘greener pastures’ has done us any good?
I do not have perfect answers to these questions but I believe that even though a new environment may not offer the same familiarity and comfort as our original home, with time and effort, it has the potential to transform into a version of home, one that may not be identical but can provide a sense of belonging, acceptance, and connection. That is the optimist in me.