Over the weekend my parents, who have lived in this country since 1990, shared with me that they will be moving back to our motherland at the end of the year. Whilst I had been privy to conversations planning this metaphorical move for quite a while now the onset of its actuality still presented me with a slight shock. In attempting to explain the ramifications of this decision and my feelings around it all I’ve found it quite polarising determining on who it is that I am talking to.
When I reveal this decision to some of my friends who grew up in Colombo but have lived in Melbourne since university the reaction is a sound, well yes of course they are. They point out that the city is home and my parents are simply completing the journey back to their roots after being away for so long. Comparing this to the reaction of my Australian and non Sri Lankan friends, the response is usually one of bewilderment. The question being ‘but why are they leaving?’
As a first generation Australian it is a very nuanced circumstance that I find myself in. As the realisation seeps in that home for me is not home for my parents. This city to them is just a temporary pause prior to going back to the sanctuary of their homeland. They grew up in Colombo, a city whilst so close to my heart still remains in many ways quite foreign to me. I’ve always known that though my skin colour and identity represent an encompassing ‘Sri Lankan-ness’, living away from the country for 28 out of my 30 years of existence will always make me an outsider.
Throughout my life I have consistently tried to explain how I have never felt like I truly belong anywhere. Not quite completely Australian because of my skin colour and not quite fully Sri Lankan because of my time away. The reaction towards my parents impending move back to Sri Lanka falls somewhere within these blurry lines between a confused identity, homeland, culture and sense of self. All of this culminating in the question of what contributes to ones ‘home’?
Is home predetermined by where one spends their childhood? If that is the case, then Melbourne is and always will be home for me. What memories I have of life have been from the point since I migrated here and onwards. I remember nothing of the first 2 and half years of my existence and yet my Sri Lankan identity still remains strong. Or is it family? Is home wherever my family is and will be? I would tend to lean towards the latter because surely life is about the ones we love more than anything else. But I’m not ready to leave the city in which I have spent the majority of my lifetime. Hence I find myself in the chicken and egg conundrum of existence.
I suppose what I have to ultimately uncover is what part of my identity is linked with the notion of home; especially when one’s home is split between 2 very distant and distinctive locations. One which I can hear whispering in the wind urging me to return to my heartland and the other reminding me that it also has a firm holding on the person I am today and my inherent identity. But alas, such is the life of a first generation migrant.