This winter has really been wearing on me, so I decided to escape Boston last weekend and went to see Adrienne and Dominik in NYC. While there, we had lunch with one of their friends who has lived in the city for about nine years — and she said she couldn't imagine living anywhere else.
Wait. Nine years?
She didn't have a husband to stay put for. She didn't have kids (that I knew of). She had a job, but not one that she couldn't theoretically have elsewhere. She just...loved living in New York City.
I was baffled.
It's not that I can't imagine anyone loving New York City. It's more that I have a hard time imagining loving anywhere that much. Loving it enough to want to stay there, just because. It really got me thinking about the idea of home, and what it means to most people. What it means to me.
It's like this: I used to be irrationally afraid of sleeping over at other people's houses. It's not particularly unique because, at around the time this happened (fifth grade or so), I was inexplicably panicked about everything: kids at school making fun of me, people thinking I was weird, people thinking I was fat, the fact that one day I would die, the fact that one day my parents would die — the list went on and on. When the time came that I actually did spend the night at someone else's house, I just wouldn't sleep. Easy as that.
Senior year of high school rolled around. I momentarily grew a backbone and decided to go to college at Syracuse University — the farthest away out of all the schools I'd been accepted to. I felt smug that I hadn't given in to my fears and enrolled at the University of Michigan, which was a mere 45 minutes away with perfect traffic conditions.
Needless to say, I didn't sleep for the first year.
Though I did not grow to love Syracuse and its city's post-apocalyptic charm, I did finally break the spell that kept me firmly tethered to Michigan and the house that I'd spent half a dozen years living in. From then on, when possible, I spent summers interning in other cities (D.C., Boston), studied abroad (London), and constantly dreamed of going anywhere but here.
I've lived in Ohio, Michigan, New York, D.C., England, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. But ever since I grew out of my parents' house, I have yet to find a place that really feels like home. And I worry that I will never find such a place — in fact, a small part of why I took a road trip around the U.S. four years ago was to surreptitiously scope out possible future living situations.
This is what I understand about the concept of home:
- "It's where your heart is." To me, that's dumb, because your heart is in your chest, and your chest is wherever you happen to be (unless you've been involved in a terrible motor vehicle accident or equally awful bear attack). To most people, I think this probably means that the location encompasses or is adjacent to those that you love, romantically and/or emotionally.
- It's where you feel most comfortable.
- It's where you feel at peace, content.
- Dare I say, it's where you feel happy?
I actually Googled "what is home" and waded through some of the results, but it got a little too nebulous for me to accept. It's well and good to say that home is wherever your husband/lover/life partner is, but what if I don't have one of those? Next.
"Home is where I can take my bra off." If that's the case, then I've got a kingdom's worth of homes to choose from! (Just kidding, mom.)
"Home is where the rags of your life are turned into quilts, lemons become lemonade, and a few extra pounds are simply welcomed as more of you to love.” Good Lord, barf. Note to Self: stop consulting Real Simple for life advice.
Before I moved to Boston, I was back in my parent's house in Michigan, climbing the walls and itching to escape. Boston and D.C. seemed like the two most logical choices for a future home base, since both were fairly large cities and would likely have more job opportunities, and both were home to at least one person I could probably count on for emotional support. Honestly, it was pure luck that I ended up in Boston: Adrienne finished grad school and was looking to move into a place she could afford, and that meant getting a roommate. It was that Sign from the universe that I'm always looking for, and I grabbed on to it.
Two years later, I'm still in Boston and Adrienne has split. And lately (okay, for the past six months, at least), I can't help what wonder: what am I still doing here? I always figured that decent reasons to stay put included a mix of (1) your dream job, (2) good friends, (3) love, and (4) a great city/town/desert island. These days, I've got maybe one of those — and to be perfectly honest, it's hard to out-and-out love Boston right now, with this Winter of Discontent so firmly blanketing the city and no signs of it letting go.
But it's not just the winter that's getting to me. It's that ever-present itch, that feeling that I'm missing out on something better just because I'm in the wrong place. I always assumed that I wouldn't feel that way anymore when I finally found the right place to be, but what if that never happens? What if I was just born with a heart filled with Wanderlust instead of the more easily remedied Regular Lust?
What if Boston is Home, but I just haven't found the Right People to make it so? How long do I wait around for that to happen? What if I find the Right Job, but it's in the Wrong City? What if every place I've lived was the Right One, but I left before it had a chance to be? (Scratch that last one, Pennsylvania was not, and never will be, the Right One.)
WHAT IF I'M JUST A TERRIBLE PERSON WHO IS NEVER SATISFIED WITH ANYTHING IN LIFE?
These are the things that I worry about, now that my nights aren't consumed with thoughts of boys making fun of me or my parent's funerals.