One of the things that really sucks about having a career-driven life is having to live in DC. There are a lot of genuinely awesome people here, and there are also genuinely awesome people who like it here (DC isn’t inhabited entirely by Congressional reps who’ve taken leave of their senses, I promise!) – but sweet fancy Moses, I’m not one of them.
Long before this summer and its health crises (and the attendant fear, sadness, and general misery), I was seriously homesick. I miss the mountains, the sunsets, and the 300 days of sunshine per year. I even miss the smell of Colorado. But most of all, I miss the people. I miss my parents, our extended family, the family friends who’ve known me since I was 3 feet tall, and old friends from when I was growing up. Colorado is where my soul feels centered, safe, and happy.
After things got rough, though, I became acutely, painfully homesick. A few weeks ago when I was on the Metro, I saw a woman carrying a bag from the exact yoga studio in Denver where I used to sweat out my grad school stress with one of my closest friends. I nearly burst into tears, so I distracted myself for a bit (there was another passenger with truly fabulous shoes, so I focused on those for a few minutes). I started to feel better, only to look up again and see a bag, no more than a few inches from my face, with a big COLORADO written on it. At that point, it took everything in me not to weep openly on public transportation.
A similar moment happened the next day, when I was reading my hometown newspaper online and saw an ad for the library system there. Now, I looooooove the library and spent the better part of my youth at the branch near our house. That place holds more fond memories than I can even count. In a fit of nostalgia, I went to their website and poked around a bit. Lo and behold, I found the activity calendar for the branch where I grew up – and as it turns out, they have tons of awesome free classes: Reiki 101, how to grow a vegetable garden in your back yard…the list goes on.
At that point I nearly cried again, so I decided to see what sorts of classes/talks are available at the Arlington public library. I was hopeful! I was optimistic! Maybe there’d be similarly cool offerings here!
Well. Let’s just say I live in a place where people have a different set of interests than those of people back home. Here in DC, the library offers Mandarin conversation groups, nanny groups, and stock trading talks. To put it mildly, I’d much rather learn about Reiki and gardening than Mandarin grammar and stock trading.
That’s when it really sunk in: there are so, so many ways in which I don’t fit in here. I’d known this on an intellectual level for quite some time – after all, I spent years going along with the whole “shut down your emotions, be super ambitious, learn to be a bureaucrat, and only wear gray or black pant suits” motif, only to realize that I’m creative, emotive, and independent, and that I absolutely hate pant suits – but suddenly, the fact that I don’t fit DC’s demographic hit me on a whole new level.
It’s funny: when I was younger, I wanted nothing more than stability and permanence in one location. We moved across the country when I was 16, and then my parents moved to the Midwest just after I’d started college – so I started my adult years with a profound sense of dislocation. (They wound up moving back to Colorado when I was 24, which was also when I returned to Colorado for grad school.)
When I was in my 20’s, I figured that the solution to that sense of dislocation was to find a job, settle down, and stay in one place. I figured I could bloom wherever I was planted, provided that I stayed long enough to put down roots.
As it turns out, though, spending a long time in one place isn’t enough for me. I’ve been in DC for almost five years – this is the longest I’ve lived anywhere since I was 16 – and yet the more time passes, it the less it feels like home. And, when things got incredibly stressful and scary over the summer and early fall, I found that I need that sense of being at home more and more.
It’s kind of an odd lesson to learn amidst everything else that’s going on: that what I really need in order to feel at home is, in fact, completely different from what I always thought. I can’t just make a place my home – being there for a long time just doesn’t work, nor does my trying with all my might.
We’ll hopefully be able to visit Colorado sometime in early 2014, and there’s a good chance that I’ll be tempted to 1) kiss the ground when we arrive, even if it’s the icky airport floor, and 2) chain myself to a tree in my parents’ backyard to keep from having to leave. (Moi? Exaggerate? Mais non!) I’m sure everyone will totally appreciate both of those things.
For now, though, I have a small piece of home sitting on my dresser: some rocks that my parents picked up and my mom brought out for me when she visited earlier this month. By way of explanation, since I was a baby, I’ve been fascinated by rocks. Growing up in Colorado, where there were rocks all over the place, I amassed an impressive collection.
Like most childhood things, though, my rock collection has long since disappeared. However! My parents, knowing how homesick I’ve been, decided that I needed a piece of home to keep with me. While they were out hiking along one of our favorite trails, they picked up pieces of quartz and pink granite – the main things you see in Colorado Springs – and sent them along to their displaced daughter.
So, while I can’t go home anytime soon, I at least have a small piece of Colorado that I can look at each morning. It’s not the same as being there, but it’s better than nothing.
And, with that, let it be known: someone needs to invent a teleportation device ASAP. If any of y’all happen to have jobs in science and technology, please get on that project.
If you don’t live in or near the place you call home, do you ever get homesick?
If so, how do you deal with it when homesickness strikes? (I’m open to suggestions!)