Friday, June 4, 2010

Home is where... well, where is it?

Today I received a text message from an unknown number. It was a Philadelphia area code and the message sounded like a specific friend, but since I've gone through four cell phones in the last year, I still had to ask to be sure. Turned out I was right – it was my dear, dear friend Mark, and we caught up over text for a little while. I realized how desperately I miss him and our circle of kindred spirits. A few hours later I heard from my friend Frank, a Philly native who made his way to L.A. to chase his musical dreams. Next came a text conversation with Mole, another Philly native in L.A., the one who just landed his dream job and the one who (despite any setbacks on his part or successes on ours) we've always said would be the most famous out of any of us. This came a week after a three-hour phone call with my friend Tina and a four-hour call with my cousin Jenna, both of whom are back in eastern Pennsylvania. And today I applied for a media job in Philadelphia. And once again, I don't know where to call home.

I've lived in Colorado for almost two years now. I have a Colorado license and plates on my car. I have a sticker that proudly declares me as a "transplant" to this state. I hold season passes to six resorts, a fully-furnished two-bedroom apartment and a dog I adopted from the Humane Society here. I've long been frustrated by the constant barrage of the "When are you coming home?" question from friends and family back in PA, which I'm sure was well-intentioned but was also the cause of substantial guilt about lacking the time, money and, frankly, the desire to return to the East Coast.

It's not that I don't enjoy going back; it's just that it's not my home. I live out of a suitcase, I don't have my dog or my car, and I'm couch surfing for a week. That's not to say it couldn't be home again. But I've been a nomad for so many years – going to upstate NY for college, studying abroad three times, my family moving several times and now moving across the country for graduate school. When I was 17, I had the itch to leave, to run, to conquer as many exotic lands as I could. I indulged that feeling, and soon had set foot in more foreign countries than U.S. state. That feeling slowly subsided after I traveled to Japan at 24; suddenly, I wanted roots. I wanted to paint my walls. I wanted to hang the heavy pictures I'd never bothered to hang before because I'd just take them down in 12 months. I wanted somewhere to call home. My home.

The concept of home is fluid and intangible, and means something different to each individual. I think my definition involves some certainty, stability – things I've never really had in my life, things which made life both harried and exciting, things I never thought I'd thrive on until now. I think home is where you build your life, it can change over time, but sometimes forgotten places from your past never quite lose that designation, even when they're not where you live, or even where you want to be.

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