One year ago this month my first post for Ezibota went live and since then, a major theme in my posts has been the exploration of my experiences as a returnee. This is a subject that’s resonated with many people in many different ways. Looking back to times before my Ezibota era, I realise that like many returnees, a personal exploration and reflection on this theme was not something I did on a day to day basis. As returnees, we are often too caught up in trying to adjust, readjust, and survive; therefore the opportunity to really actively reflect on our experiences often goes amiss.

When we do reflect, it is naturally on what most might consider the more difficult aspects of our repatriation or immigration.

Where to live! Jobs! Money! Love! Friends! Safe spaces! Money! Jobs! Transportation! Electricity! Running water! Money!

These are all necessary basics to make our lives comfortable in a new environment and thus, of more concern to us when we really take time out to think through our experiences and journey as a returnee.

The bits I have shared about my own journey have been steeped in feelings of searching, longing, and hoping for the things mentioned above. These are aspects of life I felt I needed to actualise in order to be comfortable and sometimes in order to be happy even. But once you have attained, even if only some of them, the classic question of “What Next?” pops up. Before I continue, I am going to list five things that I would not have been able to say just two months ago and then tie them into the central point I am looking to make.

  1. I have a job; and not just any ol’ job. It is a job in my chosen career path, it is full time (well I am still on probation so fingers crossed!). It is in a company that actually has a sense of vision and knows what it is doing!
  2. I carry my debit card around with me; because you know there is actual money to be withdrawn from an ATM (and no you may not send your wishlists).
  3. I went to dinner with a friend and got the bill. Nuff said.
  4. I bought a new pair of shoes a few days ago; this is after months of walking in the same shoes which, no joke, were literally coming off at the soles.
  5. I have savings; well by the time this is published I will have two months worth of savings which is a lot more savings than I have had in four years of living in Ghana. I actually earn enough such that I can save!

Having said all that, the question of “What Next?” resurfaces. I realise that I have gotten so used to the narrative of the struggle (which you can read about here, here and here) that now I see the clouds clearing up a bit and I do not fully know what to make of it. So what happens when you have begun to actualise, what next? Here are three things I am experiencing post-struggle and how I am dealing and growing as a result.

Fear

This is one word I will be happy to see the back of! It is so perpetual in its manifestations in different phases of life. The type of fear I have experienced recently is not the crippling sort that makes you feel like you are not going to survive. It is almost worse in that this fear threatens you might lose everything! I think this is something a lot of returnees contend with. There is already so much you have given up to make the big move, we all still getting asked why we moved back in the first place which connotes a sense of opportunity loss etc. So imagine that sacrifice not paying off. What keeps me going is the thought that, if you are in a position where you have gained something not worth losing, then the same strength of will you employed to gain it should be the same you employ to hold on to it. Please do not feed the fear.

Relief

This is a great feeling; it is the cold shower on a hot day (which unless you are in the heat of Accra right now you probably cannot appreciate). It is a warm drink in the winter and shelter in the rain. Relief is everything until it turns into complacency. My “what next” as far as relief is concerned is ensuring that I do not lose my sense of purpose and ambition just because I am in a steady job. We can become so grateful to no longer be struggling that we forget that our journey is life-long, it is still winding and it still requires us to evolve. Even within my job I have to think about being better, about being the best. I have to think about my writing; it has become so hard to work and write and it has not even been two months yet! I have to find a place of productivity in the midst of the relief. If we do not do this, we will realise one day that all the dreams we come back with to make impact and change have been lost in the longing to just live day to day.

Options

The greatest thing about earning a regular salary for me is that it gives me options. There is so much I can do now that I have the means. So what next? Many of us have returned for the long haul, we are not just passing through, this is home now. But the rest of the world is still out there and waiting to be discovered and taught lessons. My biggest “What Next” as far as the options I have now is to travel! I want to see more of my country and more of the continent. I do not want to become so caught up in the rat race  I forget that life is about being connected. And the minute that I lose that sense of connection to the rest of the world is when I cease to truly live. If you are in a job that allows you to travel a lot, that is even better. Take in the world around you and breathe. Allow yourself to see the clouds parting and accept that your best moments are still waiting for you to walk into them.

 

Fellow returnees, immigrants, travelers, Ezibotans doing different things in different places around the world, now that you have begun to actualise, if you are seeing the clouds part and your dreams come true, what next? I have shared with you, now please share with me what life after the storm has looked like for you.

Lambert Akwa

Lambert is a Communications Specialist and writer based in Accra, Ghana. He lived in the United Kingdom for five years studying Journalism and Publishing at Middlesex University.


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1 Comment on "The Lifecycle of the Returnee Experience: What Next?"

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Deana Bolumbu

Lambert – it’s been good to see your growth through what you have shared about your returning back home. The things I’ve learned from you is that we should always keep pushing – that truly there is a light at the end, even if it’s a small blinking one

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