I spent last week visiting my family in our hometown of Bay Village. This quaint lakeside town is on the outskirts of Cleveland, Ohio and I haven't actually lived there since 1996. However, a vast majority of my family planted roots in Ohio so I've never lost the connection. On the contrary, I am growing more attached to the Village as the years pass and I realize how lucky I am to have the opportunity to return home in the sense of home being an actual house, town and community. Many of my friends' parents have moved from the homes (and towns) in which they raised their children. All these friends (poor wandering souls) were long ago forced to expand their concept of home to include wherever their parents or their own families currently reside. I like to imagine I could gracefully handle such an adjustment, but I'm pretty sure I am lying to myself. I can see 'but that's not fair!" or something equally sophomoric coming out of my mouth if my folks ever tell me they're moving.
But really. I've spent my entire life holding one little town as my vision of home. I basically have the mindset of an elderly farmer (albeit it an elderly farmer who wants other people to look after his land while he travels the globe and visits the farm three to four times per year. That kind of farmer.)
It is truly remarkable how quickly my arrival in the Cleveland airport can propel me back to childhood. Cleveland Hopkins International is on the cutting edge of time travel.
I step foot in the terminal and I immediately want to eat a chocolate chip cookie bar from Martin's Deli. I want to run 4 miles down Wolf Road...circle back up Lake...and stretch in my folks' front yard. I want to sit on the lawn chair and drink wine while chatting with my family and watching the runners, walkers and bikers pass by. I want to visit the grocery store where my grandmother used to shop...even though I have nothing to buy. And this is just what I would do in 24 hours. I could easily fill three or four days with these types of simple, comforting activities. I have lived in Texas for over ten years now and do many of these same types of activities every day. But they don't really mean anything significant to me here. If Boz and I were to move away and then return for a visit, I would expect a ride down South Congress Ave to tug on my heartstrings. But for now...it doesn't really do much beside make me want to two-step. I'm pretty confident that said hypothetical visit won't ever slice through me like my visits to Ohio.
And I've been thinking about this a bunch over the past few days.
Boz and I recently had a discussion about how much we grew up during our time in Texas. When we met here in 2005, we were both 27 years old. And while I have heard of people who have their lives more-or-less figured out at that age, it was definitely not the case for us. On one of our first dates, B declared, "I think couples should know whether or not they want to get married within one year of dating. If it takes longer than that, it's not a good match." I had recently ended an enormously toxic relationship and left our date thinking, "Oh no. I definitely can't get engaged within a year. I guess this won't go anywhere.' As it turned out...it would be another 7.5 years before Boz would get down on one knee. As I'm sure you can imagine, we spent those 7.5 (and subsequent three) years growing up...together...and building piles upon piles of awesome memories, all centered around Austin, TX.
But Boz and I will leave Texas some day for good (or at least for a very extended period of time) and I already know how I'll feel in the airport. I'll be extremely heavy-hearted but then Boz will distract me or remind me of our next adventure and I'll snap out of it.
This is most definitely not what happens when I leave Bay Village.*
After this most recent goodbye, I cried my way through the security checkpoint, cried through a Starbucks line and then called Boz to declare, "This is unbearable. I can't do this. You need to find a way for everyone we've ever cared about to live in Bay Village." Fortunately Boz is super familiar with these types of proclamations and requests.
Adulthood just really blows at times. It's really difficult to have exhilarating, completely novel experiences while simultaneously feeling that bone-deep comfort that oozes from your hometown. I'm working to develop a sense of unwavering comfort and 'home' that carries with me anywhere and everywhere simply because I'm in my own skin. Trust me...I just went through yoga teacher training and I live in Austin, TX. I've heard all the feel-good mumbo jumbo. And I actually subscribe to its validity and spread it around every chance I get. But that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about the kind of comfort that comes from opening your parents' garage door. And from sitting on the same kitchen stool...year after year. And from a home-cooked Panamanian meal that tastes better than anything you can get in a 5-star restaurant in Asia. And the way the air whisping through the window screen feels on your legs.
No joke, folks. The air feels different in the Village...or at least it does to everyone who grew up there.
But here's the part that doesn't blow: last Saturday evening, I landed in the Dallas airport, saw a t-shirt with the Texas flag plastered across the front, and exhaled a deep, calming sigh. I texted Boz, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean what I said. I love Texas." (In addition to my demand he move all our families and friends to Ohio, I had also declared my hatred for the Lone Star State.) Boz called. And he whispered, "Babe. Any time you want to go to Ohio, you just let me know. You can go once a month if you want. You never have to feel far away. But...just know... Texas is happy to have you back."
So...as you may have guessed, this post was kind of stream-of-consciousness. I suppose I just wanted to put the following points in 'writing':
1. I get really homesick. I miss my family. I'm terrified I will regret my decision to live so far away. I worry they don't realize how much I miss and love them...and I worry they don't realize how many tiny details I remember on a regular basis.
2. I (most likely) will never live in Ohio again. Hell, I don't even really want to live in Texas anymore. The wanderlust in my heart is putting on the full court press and I'm ready for adventure.
3. No matter where I go and what I see, there will always be just one home.
I am happy living in Austin this week...and I would be fully on-board for another international assignment... and I'm also down to live in many cities across the U.S. I will happily follow Boz around the world and I have no doubt I will find fulfillment in every place. But when someone asks, 'Where is home?', I will never answer with the current place-o-residence...and I will never say Texas. I'm pretty certain I'll always say, 'Home is on a lawn chair on Tuttle Drive, Bay Village, Ohio, USA".
As the novelist George Moore said,
A man travels the world over in search of what he needs,
and returns home to find it.
Hug your families tonight, rockstars,
*I rarely cry...but when I do, I make zero attempt to hide it. There are no tissues...no hands covering the face... no trips to the restroom. I just openly sob my eyes out. This applies to my airport crying and while I realize it is really disturbing to other travelers, I can't make myself conceal it. That would make the whole ordeal simply unbearable. I need the support of my fellow fliers. So I just sit out in the open...or at the bar...like this: