I am writing this post on paper during a flight from Baltimore to Pheonix. Cruising at 34,000 feet above the Earth makes writing about the idea of ‘home’ a little like looking in through a shop window.
With my parents on their way to being settled in Maryland behind me, and my still fairly unsettled apartment in Oregon a few hours and one layover ahead, it seems I have just entered the very first time in my life I don’t know where to call home.
I was born and raised in Colorado Springs, CO. Maybe because of (or maybe in spite of) the fact that I spent my youth moving into new apartments or townhomes throughout the city, I cannot say I felt like I really belonged or fit there. By the time I was graduating high school at 17, I had lived in 18 different places. A year here, six months there, a new school and/or neighborhood with each new grade, meant lots of friends and shallow roots. But, because my family always kept a home in the state, and it is where I was born, it has been my answer when people ask me where home is.
I remember flying in from my first solo international journey. I was 19 and had just spent six months living in Northern Italy under not-as-romantic-as-it-sounds circumstances. I had been fighting to come home for over a year and a half. As my plane descended into Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak rose up from the Eastern plains marking the edge of the Rocky Mountains and my birthplace. Seeing that peak loom high released the weary travellers exhale “I’m home.” It was a time of joy and relief for this young woman embraced by the mountain whose shadow she played in through her youth.
My parents always had a guest room they called “Darcie’s Room.” I never had to ask if I could stay. I’ve shown up out of nowhere, stayed for undetermined amounts of time and left it a mess in my wake for my dear mother to put back together.
For nearly 10 years life followed this haphazard pattern – a short lease, some time overseas, a stay in a guest room, more time overseas, two or three months back and then another flight out. My transient nature never argued that Colorado was my default. When the trips were over, the plane ticket home would drop me at the foot of the mountain and, most likely, into a guest room supplied by my loving family. Add in the use of an extra car, plenty of food in the fridge and my short term furloughs back in the United States almost felt like normal life, if only for a few weeks time.
Two days ago my parents signed a lease on a small two-bedroom apartment on the other side of the United States in Columbia, Maryland. While there is still a guest room, and their day-to-day life will be a great deal more out of sorts and minus the comfortability of the home they own in Colorado than mine, I still find myself acknowledging that I no long have a default resting place, a back-up or security net.
I have been working over the last six months to make my own apartment in Oregon as close to “homey” as it can get, but am not any where near fulfulling this. I still have to use my GPS most of the time to get around and sleep on an air mattress. I am definately not settled enough in Oregon to start to call it “home”. I usually call it “back”, as in “I am going back at 5:15 today.”
Some say, “Home is where the heart is.” Well, my heart is scattered with people across the nation. Some say, “Home is where your family is.” But my family is scattered, too, and I couldn’t call their mysterious neighborhoods my home any better than I could call Oregon my home.
Over the years I have set my feet in 28 different countries. In each place I find that one quest of the heart is to find and fit in a place called HOME. It is a deep desire, and one you listen closely to as you speak with those that have traveled far – either by choice or by force. At my deepest root I have only had one place on the planet feel like I belonged in my entirety…
When I stepped on the precious Irish soil that carries the stories of my ancestors and the roots of my family tree, I actually felt myself begin to breathe more deeply. It was as if my body had been malnourished, lacking some vital nutrient, and was finally getting what it needed.
I soaked in Ireland. It was the first time I ever said This is where I belong. Not belong like I would pack up and move there (I would, by the way), but belong like I fit perfectly, was part of it.
My personality, priorities, desires, my laugh, my name, my beer choice all made sense under the Irish sun. I had not experienced that feeling before, nor have I experienced it again.
Now, flying high above, I feel like a fish dreaming of water. Perhaps it is time to grow up and create a less-temporary space of my own. Perhaps it is time to stand up straight, not relying on my family to pick up my homesick pieces with their extra beds, nice showers and hot meals.
Afterall, I am 30, almost 31.
17 / 31