All my life that definition has been changing. There was the township where I grew up, the cold concrete streets of Hillbrow that I slept on for 8 months, the very first apartment I moved into, Lagos, the city that will forever have my heart, and now Johannesburg where I live. There was the tired apartment on a street, the 2 bedroom house I shared with friends on 11th Ave, the four walls of the house in Orange Grove where I first met love. There were the streets I wandered, the gravel paths I ran, the highways with no names where only my tires left tracks. And there are places I have yet to experience, resting somewhere off in my uncharted future.
Each of those places lays claim on a part of my heart.
Each of those places are both familiar and natural.
Each of those places I have, and will learn to call home.
And yet, the only place that has stayed consistent, the only home I have been able to return to again and again, the only home that hasn’t left and is forever within me and to which I am inextricably tied—my body—this breathing, living shell.
My body is my home. And I want to celebrate it.
I want to smile and let the lines around my eyes reflect in the bathroom mirror, loudly and beautifully. I want to laugh and hum and sing to my own melody, feeling each chord hum in my chest. I want to dance and twirl my arms and legs, each muscle bending and flexing and swelling without fear. I want to cry and feel the tears pouring down my cheeks, warm and free and pure.
I want to speak and let the sound fill my ears, sounds of love and appreciation, of hope and strength. I want to run until my feet ache, until my bones feel tired, and then I want to fall into sleep, resting for a new day. I want to wake up in blankets, blissful and content and comforted by the sound of my own breath exhaling through my chest. I want to feel my heartbeat and know that all I’ve overcome is just a small measure of who I am, who I will be.
I want to love myself in every sense of the word, not just because I should, but because the world will never love me in this way. Because I owe it to myself to claim this body, this home, and to dwell here in celebration.
No longer will I find my faults. No longer will I see the parts of me I wish to change before the beauty that defines me. No longer will I compare myself to standards, to perspectives, to unspoken rules of the world around me. Because I am not the world.
I am a home. And each home is different. And this home is mine.
This home with the short waist and the split ends and the tired eyes and the sore heel and the weak back and the thick legs and the strong arms and the thick hair and the scars is mine.
Mine to claim. Mine to own. Mine to love.
So I will love it. I will love it, even when I’ve put on a few extra kilograms and the mirror frowns back at me. I will love it, even when I’ve an entire pizza in one sitting, or when I’ve drank far too much liquor.
I will love it, even when it fails me. Even when my mind gives in and I cannot wake up for weeks on end. Even when I have nothing to give the world, I will love it, even when the miles seem longer and each step makes my heel ache. I will love it, even when my old clothes don’t fit, even when it fails me. I will love it.
I will love my body, even when the world shakes her head, even when there are a million and one reasons I shouldn’t, even when I’ve grown tired. Because my body is my home—my dwelling place, my residence, my constant in a world that is far too impermanent.
And so, I will live here. I will love here. I will grow here. I will break and rebuild here.
In this body, I will learn. I will travel. I will find new lips to kiss and new places to wander. I will settle into new apartments and houses, with new friends and lovers. I will reassurance and belonging.
And yet, who I am will always be in flux. But…I will always have a place to return to, my home within skin.