I am often asked ‘where is home?’ By lineage and my upbringing, I am an African American Bangladeshi. I have lived in 6 cities in 3 continents.
Home is a state of mind in time and not a physical place. Home is a place in time where I feel creative, inventive and audacious, surrounded by creative people and ideas that challenge me to be a better person today than yesterday.
Physical places that feel like home to me are shaped by personalities, tastes and smells. Through my travels around the world, I have found these three ingredients in many places. These ingredients give me a sense of home.
I grew up in Nigeria. My parents were teachers, and in Nigeria I was exposed to an environment of constant learning – languages, music, new cultures, new people and acceptance of those people from different cultures and backgrounds. I moved to Boston for architecture school. After architecture school, I started my architectural career in Boston. With my band of wicked-awesome socially misfit friends, I was surrounded by so much history that the town’s pride and culture became a part of my own. I lived for every nugget of New England’s quirky history and became a Townie Country Nerd. I took great pride in showing people around ‘my town’ so they may appreciate the town I had come to love. The town gave me all of the essential ingredients but there was something missing. It was time to move on.
After 13 years in Boston, I was ‘persuaded’ to move to New York City. I initially missed Boston as I had become part of the fabric of the city with friends, family and the city’s planning and design, but I soon came to find a new deeper love. I found a place where it was ok to not fit in and not look or be like everyone else. It was ok to be different. The city challenged me and I accepted the challenge. I soon came into my own where I savored every opportunity to break my self-imposed chains of stereotypes. As an architect and an aspiring photographer, it was important to understand what made me different because that’s what set me apart from everyone else. The energy of the city had drawn me into an immersion of people, art, music and technology through which I found my identity. Being different gave me a sense of belonging, a sense of home.
I moved to Seattle about 5 years ago. Prior to moving here, my wife and I lived and worked in two separate states. After 2 years of marriage, Seattle offered both of us a place to live and work. We moved here with a sense of excitement - of being in a city of multi-cultural diversity, a community that we could become part of and yet maintain our unique identities. Since moving here, it has been a challenge to break through the unspoken Freeze. It is one of the most beautiful places I have lived, but I have developed little chemistry with people here. People define a place. In a town where assimilation is a must, fitting-in in Seattle and to call it home has been a challenge. I’m still looking for my key ingredients.
Not accepting the stereotype, I am still chipping away at the freeze…for now.