Friday, June 16, 2006

Getting to the Point About Homesickness

It struck me a couple of years ago -- after four years here, because I’m a bit slow -- that I couldn’t be the only one among my friends who occasionally considered his long-term geographical future. It wasn’t possible that everyone else was planning to stay in New York for the rest of their lives. It also figured that unlike me, and my impractical daydreams of living in any number of places with which I have no real connection, from Saratoga to Chicago to Vancouver, my more reasonable friends would probably move, if they ever felt compelled to, somewhere within shouting distance of wherever home was before they were lured away by New York. I remember thinking to myself: We have all flocked here, and someday a reverse migration will occur.

In the coming months, three couples I know will be leaving Brooklyn for Seattle, Hawaii, and Normal, Illinois, respectively. So it begins.

When I lived in Texas, I strongly related to the New York area as home, and I always felt it pulling me back. I felt in some very real way that I had been displaced. Now, when I miss Texas, it’s small moments that come to mind, never a larger sense that I should return, though I know from having done it once that I could adjust to living there. I can honestly say that I never miss Long Island, my first home, on a deep level, because I left there when I was 14, and thoughts of going back on a full-time basis feel like regression. (It’s been a relief to realize that as intensely nostalgic as I can be, I stop short of seeking actual backward movement.)

This is what I wanted to say when I recently wrote about homesickness, but I didn’t have the time, or I didn’t think I could articulate it. Maybe I still can’t, but here goes: I don’t feel homesick for anywhere right now. So when I feel general wanderlust -- or, more importantly, when I feel a specific need to focus on a place that could be restorative and sensible -- I come up blank. So I’ll stick with the Chicagos and Vancouvers of the world. They’ll do for fantasy, but I can’t fool myself into thinking they would be home.

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Anonymous Dread Pirate said...

Come back to Texas - we are always waiting. -insert evil laugh-

5:08 AM  
Anonymous Mom said...

Hate to blow your bubble about Vancouver, but
Keith lasted four months there and is now in Maryland.
Vancouver is as expensive as NY...and he felt
isolated. Dream on, son.

10:24 AM  
Blogger JMW said...

An evil laugh and a dream mercilessly crushed by my own mother. I feel much better now.

10:34 AM  
Blogger lfw said...

I think Iowa City and Ithaca are more likely to be up your alley. Small college towns are the way to go if/when the City grows tiresome for you. A slower pace (obviously), but with enough cultural activities to keep you from going out of your mind with boredom.

I may just have to come back here for another summer so you can visit and check it out.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Jamal Alsaffar said...

It sounds like, in the end, you feel at home where you are. If you don't really feel homesick for another place, just the occasional fondness that memories produce, then you must feel at home now. When friends of ours come and go from Austin for whatever reason (usually job related and reluctantly), we just count ourselves lucky that we don't have to leave, even if we are one friend down. Ultimately, it's what fits you, and no one else.

With that said, you know Austin is the best of all possible worlds. It is a hip city but not too big. It is culturally vibrant, beautiful, young, alive, and a great place to call home no matter what your age or station. And relatively speaking, very affordable especially from a New Yorker's perspective. And we can't stand Bush. Perfect. We'll leave a light on for you.

1:16 PM  
Blogger lmha said...

Jamal is right. You should be homesick for Austin! :) At least that's my argument.

I have similar inclinations. I have some unrealistic fantasy about having a house in the Hamptons--like Diane Keaton in "Something's Got to Give" and Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa). Pipe dream, a la the "Friends" apartment in Manhattan on a waitress/retail budget. And I've never even BEEN to the Hamptons. But I pine for it like I had some meaningful experience there. Silly.

Home is what you make it, and the people that surround you. It evolves with us. And I like what you said about nostalgia being a step away from regression--too true.

3:00 PM  

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