a house is not a home

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Unlike yesterday, I won't allow a distraction to replace my intended blog post--but I will say this: I walked out of my house (after several minutes of pep talk to reassure myself that the bees will not harm me so long as I am not harming them), glanced down at my stoop and saw a large, very black spider.  Said spider starts crawling towards my boot, and I flip my shit, then realize that where I have run to is directly below and beside the purported beehive; in which I promptly flip my shit again, scream, and flee down the front path to my car.

Message of the mini-story: I am not leaving my house tomorrow because I'm 10000% positive my fragile nerves cannot take it.

So a few days ago I wrote the sentence: "I want to tell you how my heart hurts every day because I always feel like I'm away from home."  And then I found my old journalism notebook that had one of the six-word memoirs I wrote for a workshop, which reads "Lived in six countries.  Where's home?"  And for the lovely cherry on top (which I don't actually eat, but I'll stick with the saying), Tuesday's Glee episode was titled "Home" and had all these songs with the word Home or about your Home and even contained one of my favourite songs in the entire world.

Ok, world, I see the sign, I get it.  I will write the long-thought-but-never-written post about home.  For those who knows me in real life, I'm sorry, I know this topic is beaten to a goshdarnfriggen' bloody pulp with me, but I can't help it.  And for those who have read my blog for awhile, you'll know most of the facts already.  Feel free to hit "Mark as Read" if you like, because this post needs to be written for my own sanity, and I'm going to be a bad selfish blogger and write how I need to.

I love San Diego.  I do.  I really, really do.  I find it to be a vibrant, lively city, and I love that I have a beach 20 minutes away and a downtown city life 25 minutes away and safe little suburbs outside my door and snow only 45 minutes away.  There's so much in one small county, and it keeps my ever-changing attention.  And I love living here, too.  I like the people, I like the structures, I like the weather, I like the accessibility and availability of almost anything I need.  A good 50% of my relatives live here, too, and that's always fun.

But it's not home.

Ok, that's a lie.  It is home.  I feel comfortable here, it's familiar and loved and when I come back to it after a trip away, I breathe easier and find that I've been unknowingly yearning for the hill with shitty potholes to get to my house and the confusing freeways and the odd patch of grass with a bench at the major intersection at the light to turn onto the street bordering my house.  My family is here, my life is here, my friends and, maybe one day, my career.

But even when I'm here, I want to be elsewhere.

Having lived in San Diego for 11 years now (though 4 of that was spent 80 miles away at University in Orange County), this is the absolute longest I've ever lived anywhere.  Even if I were to subtract those 4 years, living somewhere for 7 years is the longest I've been anywhere, too.  By the time I was 12 years old, I'd moved 4 times; lived in ten different buildings; and was able to call 6 countries "home" at some point.  I still have a hard time accepting the fact that I've known people for longer than 5 years, and that I still see them.  Sure, I have my best friends from those years in Europe, but I haven't seen them in years.  Our entire friendship was created on knowing each other for a year when we lived in the same country and inevitably came to a close when one or both of us moved.  That was life, and that's all I've ever known.  My brother often tells me I have "friend ADD" because I get restless and tired of the same people all the time.  Every year, the rotation of people I would see changed, and I still have a hard time grasping that that just isn't the case anymore.

Anyway.  Living the way I did, "home" was a lot more of a notion than a real thing.  Home is transferable, transportable, mobile.  A flat in West Riuslup and an apartment in Jacksonville and a beautiful multi-story house in Brussels and a mobile home in St. Tropez and a small marble-floored building in Lago Patria and temporary living accommodations are all "home."

The problem with this is that I never, ever feel as though I'm really home, even when I am in my own house.  A part of my heart is still in that London flat, part of me still lives in Belgium, part of my life remains at the Amalfi Coast.  Each of these places owns a part of who I am, and no matter how much I love wherever I am at the moment, I'm never really whole.

You know that feeling about 3 or 4 days into a vacation trip when the homesickness creeps in?  You've reached that point of craving familiarity, of wanting to see that crack in the wall or run in the carpet or secretly chipped vase in your living room.  That small, gnawing feeling of just wanting to go back to the one place you know contains your life and what makes you happy and that you take for granted--which is ok, because that's what it's there for.  To always be there, even when you don't realize it.  It's that small tug at your heart to return to home.

That's what it's like for me, every single day.  No matter where I am.  I'll drive in San Diego and crave the metro in Belgium.  I'll stare out the window and wish I was seeing the courtyard to my Parco in Italy.  I'll sit in Coffee Bean and my heart will start to hurt thinking about sitting in cafes in Marseilles watching everyone walk by.  I was eating pizza in Orange County when I was at school and felt so far away from the pizzeria down the street from my old apartment in Italy that had the best pizza margherita in the world.  I was staring at the most beautiful scenery while at Monument Valley in Utah/Arizona, and I felt so close and so far away from Mt. Vesuvius, a silhouette that used to be a part of my life every day.  Even when I was living in Orange County, I would be in a library and miss the libraries back in San Diego.  Everywhere I am, I feel as though I'm away from my home.

I'm envious of those people who can pinpoint their home.  Who can tell you every detail of their two-story tan brick house with the archway and french door entrance.  Who can walk through their house and point out where they fell when they were 3 years old and cried, or the doorway they walked into when they were 7 and knocked out a tooth, or the stairs they ran down to answer the door for that sleepover in 3rd grade or the exact place they were when their high school sweetheart gave them their first kiss goodnight.  Even those who have made the transfer of home away from their parents house, who can walk the two flights up to their apartment and show you the spot on the couch where a friend accidentally dropped his lit cigarette or the broken screen window where a drunken ex fell into it or their pots and pans aligned as they want in the kitchen cabinet.  I envy the people who can walk through a door and know they belong.

But even when I know this envy is there, I would never change my life.  I would never, ever trade any of my experiences for one house that contains my entire childhood.  If I had to live it all again, I would do every move, every leaving of friends, every box packed and new apartment cleaned and introduction at the front of the class as "the new girl from the other country" and stamp on my passport.  I wouldn't even consider any other way.

It hurts, feeling like every step is in a direction away from home.  Some days I am literally gripped breathless at the longing I have to return to somewhere else.  Other days it's manageable, just that thought weighing heavy at the back of the heart.  Most of the time, I feel like I'm permanently on vacation, in that stage of small homesickness with the excitement of exploring something new.  One minute I'll be ogling where I'm at, two steps later I'll want to go back to a place I know and love, and five steps from then I'll be back to wanting to be exactly where I am.  I'm just always "away."

I want it to be clear that I'm not unhappy where I am.  I am happy.  I really like where I am, in all senses of the statement.  Of all the places to be in the world, I'm pretty sure this is tops, or at least among them.  I'm sad, I'm always missing somewhere or something or someone, and I don't think I'll ever really feel like I belong where I'm at.  But despite all that, I am incredibly grateful and in love with my current city.

I think my heart just needs to grasp that "home" isn't about a building.  It's not about being able to point at a spot and tell the story, or walking through your childhood memories every time you walk from one end of the house to the other.  It's not about loving the rose garden that was planted when you were 5 months old, or the small hole in the wall where you hung your *NSYNC poster when you were 10, or that cabinet that creaks.  It's about knowing your past, having those memories, possessing the stories of youth and younger times.  It's about carrying that feeling of belonging, of owning who you are and what you've become knowing where it all happened--even if it happened to be in multiple places.  Home is simply a state of mind.


Sue @ SimonsSistaSaw April 29, 2010 at 4:33 AM  

I've only followed for so long so whilst I had realised you had lived in many a place, I didn't realise just how many etc. Home for me is easier to pinpoint - whilst it's not my childhood house, it is Melbourne. Still, when I'm in Melbourne, I talk of flying home (to London). I really think, coy as it may sound, home is where you make it. And for me, for now, that is London.

Stephany April 29, 2010 at 12:53 PM  

I moved around a lot when I was younger, but always to different apartments around my county. So I don't have a house where I have dozens of memories, and even the place I'm living with now isn't riddled with memories. But I know that I feel most at home here. I don't long for other places.

You have had an amazing life so far and I'm glad you don't regret it. You're just someone who doesn't have one home - you have dozens of them!

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I'm fairly obsessed with penguins, Peanuts (the comic), and the TV show Friends. Parentheses may or may not be (over)used in this blog, and books will pretty much be the only thing I ever talk about because they are my One True Love.


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