Very often I’m asked here in Egypt whether I miss Finland or home generally. Yes, without doubt I do. I do miss home in its conceptual meaning. But as in missing home as one single place or entity somewhere with certain people in there, no I don’t. And that is because I’ve never had such, or because it doesn’t exist in that sense any more for me. I have been destined by fate to be torn apart between different places, people, cultures and languages for good. The day I was born on this earth, I had already two families in totally different continents, and gradually also two homes.
When I was younger, I felt more sense of belonging towards Finland, but when I grew up a little, it was replaced by a sense of displacement. Why don’t these people see me like anyone else? Why is meeting with me always accompanied by the “where are you from” or by the more insistent “where are you ORIGINALLY from” questions? Why can’t I be from HERE and belong HERE? These internal battles made me reach the conclusion that I had to leave. Obviously my place wasn’t in Finland.
Driven by the sense of curiosity, excitement and adventure, I packed my bags in 2015 and headed to Cairo. “This is going to be great”, I said. “I mean, why wouldn’t it? Isn’t this where everyone says I belong?”
As the days passed and I started figuring out how to navigate the city and its complexities, I often felt elated. I made friends and got to know my family better. These people definitely look more like me, at least outwardly.
However, by the passing of time, the difficulties started popping up from every corner. Externally they would be things like dealing with governmental bodies and their bureaucracy, putting up with traffic and finding a good doctor.
Internally, the issues that kept presenting themselves were more complex, though. Deep inside, no matter what I do, I still miss Finland and Helsinki, the city where I grew up, and went to school, the city that shared my sad and happy moments for over 19 years. I even miss the straightforward, honest, no-small-talk type of Finns who used to annoy me at times, since I love chit-chatting and joking and getting to know new people all the time. After all, I grew up in the midst of them, and turns out that they occupy a certain place in my heart till now.
Nostalgia is an essential part of life, but it wasn’t helping me in reconciling my torn feelings of displacement and confusion. I finally, not a long ago, had to sit down with myself and try to make sense of what was going on inside me. For the first time in years I was honest with myself. Weighing all the lovely things, people and feelings I gained by moving to Egypt with my past, family and love for the simplistic Finnish culture, I reached the conclusion that I was neither this nor that. I am suspended. Suspended in between two countries, cultures and languages with an invisible thread that is the essence of my being.
Then again, why do I have to be from somewhere specific? Why does my family have to be only of a certain nationality or even ethnicity? Why do I have to identify myself with only a few words? I am Finnish. Or. I’m a Finnish Muslim. Or Finnish-Egyptian Muslim, Egyptian. Egyptian Muslim. Egyptian-Finnish Muslim (order matters). I believe that all of us as humans, regardless of our “heritage” as they call it, are much more than what can be defined by nationality (which is a relatively new invention in the first place) or religion. We are our stories, dreams of future, memories of the past. We are our beliefs, morals, and what we love. We are what we’ve been through and what we yet will. We are the people that pass through our lives, those who leave a footprint and those who don’t. We are entire maps of the world, not just countries.
I have given up on trying to fit myself to only one of those categories. It has proven itself an impossible task. I’ll just fluctuate, be dynamic, and allow myself to be suspended in the air, in the midst of it all. At least the view is cool from up here!