The hardest part about being 15 was I realized I no longer belonged to Tehran, my country of birth. It had been four years since I had left Iran, four years since I'd seen my siblings, four years after immigration. My mother and I both decided it was a good idea for me to go for a month in the summer after my freshman year in high school.
It was exciting, and my friends and teachers were all excited for me, knowing how long it had been, knowing it was a long, big journey. I fell asleep in the Iranair airplane, the final plane that would land in Tehran. I opened my eyes and found a plate of Iranian food in front of me, rice and some kind of meat. I ate it eagerly, I hadn't even noticed the flight attendant bringing it over.
When the plane landed, everyone cheered and clapped. The city lights, my city lights shone. It wasn't that I felt like I was at home, but knowing I could be back, knowing I had people waiting to see me, was sufficient. And at that time, I wasn't yet dwelling on the idea of "home," nor was I trying to redefine it for myself.
I spent a month observing my own country, and as my trip came to a close, I realized sadly that I would never live there again. That I wouldn't want to. I felt helpless for realizing I was a stranger there, and that the freedom I lacked had suddenly hit me at the age of 15. I understood then why everyone had left, but it wasn't enough for me to move on and let go. Then there was the guilt of having the previlege to be a tourist, to have the option to leave for good.
I left with a heavy heart. When I parted from my siblings, I cried so hard and so much that even while the women in the airport security searched me, their eyes cold, as they sat fully covered in black veils, I continued to cry. On the plane, I thought of my cousin, who I wouldn't see again until eight years later. It was then that I decided I would never go back to visit, unless I had someone traveling with me. I couldn't do the goodbyes alone.
I have not yet been back.