I didn’t understand the concept of immigration until we migrated to you.
I was about five years old when I stepped out of KLIA for the first time.
At the time, I couldn’t point you out on a map, I could barely pronounce the name of your capital city. I had never even heard of you.
Now, decades later, I know you inside and out. I know you about as well as anyone can know a place and its people.
I’ve spent the vast majority of my life coddled in your humidity, playing under your sun. Your grass between my toes, your rain against my skin. All the while, you gently whispered in my ear, reminding me of what was yours and what I couldn’t call mine. Your sun, your rain, your grass, your land. Your country. Not mine.
You see, in your eyes, I have always been a second-class guest at best, a “foreigner” thorn in your side at worst. But to me, you have always been a home. You are the only home I know how to live in, the only host I know how to live with.
For better or for worse, you’re all I know.
Under your roof, I’ve learnt to reconcile the warm feeling of home with the cold reality of being an outsider in it. You taught me to feel foreign amid familiarity. A kind of paradox that I suspect you and I will both wrestle with, at varying degrees, for a long time to come.
To be fair, you’ve rarely been shy about letting me know when I’ve overstayed my welcome. Over the past few years you’ve dropped many progressively less subtle and alarmingly more discriminatory hints about this, in office buildings and in social settings alike.
So you’ve let me know, in no uncertain terms—you want me out of your house. And hey, I knew not to get too comfortable anyway. You’ve established yourself as a kind of expatriate halfway house.
People come to you with the intention of a short stay, they stay longer than expected and they leave anxious at the prospect of life without your comforts, but with no intention of coming back. It feels like I’ve been living out of a metaphorical suitcase my entire life.
I’ve watched countless people I love leave me by leaving you—taking parts of our home with them as they go. I’ve always known you to be temporary, you have proven yourself as such, but that doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier.
Our dynamic has never been a simple or healthy one, and it’s taken a turn for the worst. So now, a literal lifetime worth of visa renewals later, I’m leaving you.
Nevertheless, this unrequited love as bitter as it is, is still love. My love for you, as conflicting as it is to me and as irrelevant as it is to you, is deeply rooted and unfaltering.
Thank you, Malaysia, for everything—and also for nothing.
I will always love you greatly and resent you considerably.
Your ex-resident foreigner of 20 years.
This article was written and contributed by Sara Madani. Sara is a graduate of Taylor’s University Malaysia, Iranian-born and Malaysian-raised.
Feature Image Credit: Sara Madani