I'm From 2 Different Countries, But I Don't Really Belong Anywhere

by Nikhita Mahtani

It's kind of weird to think I've been away from home for almost 10 years now.

I came to New York for college, and I remember absolutely hating it.

It was funny; I remember crying in my room for hours, not knowing what the hell I was doing. And obviously, that makes sense: I was a kid.

I didn't know what I wanted to study or who I wanted to be. It was also the first time I had left my hometown bubble, so things were a little... uncomfortable, to say the least.

I grew up in Mumbai, India, which is a crazy mess of a place. And I loved it.

I loved the way everyone seemed to know one another (because if you go to any of the maybe five decent schools there, you have friends from ALL of them).

I loved the food, the culture and how easy life was.

Because here's the thing: If you're ever lucky enough to live there, it starts to get comfortable.

You have the same friends you've had since you were 12, you live in luxury because spaces are big and labor is cheap, you find a decent job and you keep at it, all while not really advancing because you don't actually need to.

You don't really need to make more money; you don't need to find new friends and you don't need to step out of your comfort zone.

So, you don't.

It was therefore super scary for me to actually have to do that.

It was kind of a rough road, especially because I was away from everything I held familiar. But it was also kind of exhilarating because for the first time in my life, I was able to make decisions away from the people who knew me my whole life.

When somebody knows you for so long, he or she starts to think of you in a certain way. That impression can be really hard to change. But it's also RIDICULOUS because that's literally what people do as they mature: change.

It gets easy for you to sort of just stay that way. You don't express anything different you're feeling, and you're not really exposed to that much.

But of course, in NYC, you are.

I made friends with people who were wildly different from me. Since in the US it's definitely more accepted to just own your weirdness and "find yourself," I really began to come into my own.

It was kind of nice; after years of people just putting me in a box, I could finally figure out what was beyond that box.

In New York, I found my love of journalism.

I had my heart broken, I was disappointed and I cried a LOT. It all changed me.

While I definitely love the community I have back home, that support still stops you from changing. Here, I became way less conservative, and coming from a country that stresses the importance of getting married in your mid 20s, I realized that didn't sit very well with a lot of people I know.

By embracing other people's differences, I learned to embrace my own. That's priceless.

I'm not saying I'll never go back, and again, I don't hate the place at all. In fact, I kind of miss it sometimes... it's still home.

But I think the problem is now, no matter where I go and who I become, I'm a mix of every experience I've had so far. By extension, I'm a mix of cultures and beliefs, and they're all so wildly different from one another that I can't find the ONE place I truly relate to anymore.

I'm driven, busy, anxious, feminist and outspoken, and I have all my years here to thank for that.

But I'm also super family-oriented, sensitive, reserved and studious, so my personality is really confusing and odd.

I go home and find comfort and solace in everyone who's known me since I was a child, and I kind of like it. But I also come back here and love my independence and freedom to change my mind about what I believe in at the drop of a hat.

So, even though I've found my "home" in two wildly different countries, I don't actually "belong" anywhere. I always feel a little out of place... like a small part of me doesn't fit in.

But maybe that's the beauty of having both these experiences. It definitely isn't something I'd ever give up.