As the world struggles with the pandemic, home has taken on a new meaning for some. Fakiha Baig reflects on her inability to belong to just “one” place.

In such a globalised economy, it’s common to see someone born in one country, work in another, and then settle in an entirely new place while adapting to the culture, weather and language simultaneously.

Like one in five Canadians, I was also born elsewhere. My family and I moved to a suburb in Ontario from Pakistan when I was young, and since, I’ve hopped the continent for school and work.

So, when I get asked “where are you from?”, I can’t pinpoint an exact location. However, somewhere in the struggle to balance my dual identity and witnessing COVID-19 force millions of people inside in unprecedented ways, I found a glimmer of hope, and perhaps an answer.

Truly Belong - Overlooking the pandemic, home has taken on a new meaning for some

Where I’m from, I see the undeniable wrath of a pandemic, especially on the marginalised communities of Indigenous, Black and Brown people, who face a higher death rate due to little or no access to health services. But I also recognise that the worst has also brought out the good in humanity.

From here, I see our growing appreciation for health care providers and essential staff whose hard work is often overlooked.

From this home, I see neighbours dedicated to finding new and innovative ways to stay connected with loved ones, and their will to sacrifice their freedoms for those more vulnerable in their surroundings.

Truly Belong - Overlooking the pandemic, home has taken on a new meaning for some

In this crisis, my whereabouts have pushed me to look beyond passport labels and addresses. As cliché as it may sound, it has reminded me that the Earth is my home first, and despite the borders that may confine us, all life on this planet is interconnected.

Read also: Travel Limitations are Leaving Global Citizens Behind

I’ve started seeing myself as a citizen of the world because I realise I belong to so many places and cultures. I feel a desire to rest, reset and rethink my sense of duty to our planet because the health of our planet and future of humanity are inseparable. Home feels like every continent and sea because I understand clearer our dependence on cleaner air and healthier forests, and our collective responsibility to prevent other health and environmental crises.

COVID-19 proves that despite our individual identities, at the heart of humanity, is a common fear of loss and sickness, and the understanding that when our planet suffers, we are all at a loss. This is why I feel that I am more than my location or nationality; I am a citizen of the world.

This story first appeared in the 2021 print issue of Truly Belong under the title “Where is Home?

Fakiha Baig