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After the pandemic hit us full force in March last year we were all forced to stay inside and work from home. Just like many other international students, I had to postpone my flight back to my hometown, Dubai. As someone who had lived there my entire life, somehow, going back this time felt different. Maybe it was because I knew I wasn’t back for a couple of weeks like I usually was. This time I had to stay longer and I didn’t mind at that time. But, being constantly surrounded by memories of my childhood took a huge toll on me. As days went by, I became so engulfed into my previous lifestyle that the memories I made in Seattle suddenly started to seem unreal, like a fantasy I made up in my head. The person that I saw in the photos that I took at UW barely seemed or looked like me. I started to unconsciously disassociate myself from that time of my life.

As much as I felt like I was reliving my past, there were so many things that were different this time around. A lot of my friends left town due to difficulties they had to face because of the pandemic. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like I was at home anymore because the people I associated with home were no longer with me. Walking down the same path and listening to the same music that I used to with my friends felt so different when I did it alone. And, looking back at all of these memories ignited a feeling of nostalgia that engulfed me to the point where I start despising my present life, wanting to go back and experience those moments again. But at the same time, reliving my past again and again made me feel so stagnant that my body craved to experience something new and adventurous. Living like this was not serving me anymore – I had to learn how to deal with change and accept that I’ve outgrown my hometown.

I guess growing up and moving on is not so bad after all. It can be tough and challenging but at the end of the day, it’s exciting and takes place so that we can experience something that is more aligned with ourselves, now that we have changed from who we used to be. Even after many years, I will always want to come back to Dubai because it holds such a special place in my heart that can never be replaced. But to fulfill my dreams and my thirst for freedom I will have to look elsewhere, like Seattle. Even though I was able to only experience Seattle for a couple of months, I could see myself flourishing while being surrounded by amazing new friends and experiences that will encourage me to grow into my truest self.

I feel grateful and privileged to have the opportunity to restart my whole life in a completely new environment that will help me get over my unhealthy attachment to the past. Until everything goes back to being normal, I will try to ground myself and start enjoying my present life more because I have a lot more to look forward to than to look back at.

Mahak Saxena

Washington '23

Mahak is a sophomore at UW, majoring in Interdisciplinary Visual Arts. She enjoys designing, listening to music, taking photos and learning about Astronomy. She aspires to work in the fashion industry and create representation for minorities.
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