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Published: July 18th 2010
My first real bout of homesickness came when I was trying to set up my new home in D.C. I thought it was just going to be a transition. I wasn't changing, I was just changing locations, something I had come to believe I had become pretty talented at over the years.
I had left Savannah in search of more opportunity. My relationship with that city had become unhealthy and tired out. The only thing I really seemed to have accomplished while there was getting people drunk by serving cheap beer down by the river and saving up for frequent trips somewhere else. D.C. held potential, it held glamour. It was my radiant, shining Oz at the end of the road that provided hearts, brains, courage, opportunity and home. So as I carried the last armful of clothes and equipment into my boyfriends parents house (which we would be staying in temporarily) I felt the jittery excitement of arriving at my destination.
That feeling faded three days after when no one was responding to my desperate emails to subletters and landlords on Craigslist, leaving Jon and I stuck without a space to ourselves. After no one was calling me for jobs, even though I consider myself good at what I do and extremely cheap for doing it. After I realized it is July in Virginia and I don't have a car so only on the more inspiring days am I so motivated to walk and wait and deal with public transportation in order to buy another pack of smokes or explore further than suburbia.
I became lethargic and moody, claustrophobic and lonely. I cleaned and paced like a crazy woman. I obsessively fiddled online facebooking, craigslisting, googling, writing and applying for lack of better things to do. Sometimes I would take a walk, but only after the sun was beginning to go down. This was my home? I thought. This doesn't feel right. Home. Home is supposed to be refuge, comfort, personal space. Bird in nest. Worm in hole. Fish in sea. Everything has a home, websites have a home, except me.
Nomads and travelers consider the road their home, and often I have found myself most comfortable in transit. Usually I was able to fit in snugly most places I went, no matter how different or new, feeling right at home. Making sandwiches among the olive orchards in Greece, navigating the crowded alleyways of the bazaar in Turkey, wrapped in my sleeping bag on a ferry's outerdecks, among the trees of the Appalachian Trail taking my soap down to the Conneticuit River to clean up before work, in the Harvard Business school dormitories despite the clash of my electric blue batik dress against their Banana Republic back drop. Relationships bringing out the domestic best in all of us, I wanted to settle in somewhere with Jon so he understands where ever I go, I will come back. But this was not it. I felt betrayed by my own intuition and for the first time in a very long time, I felt lost.
After a good cry, I examined my life at present to figure out why this was not home when I so desperately wanted it to be. I understood the significant differences between myself and the overall populace and had decided to become proactive about this. In the travel memoir Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, she describes how every place has a word to describe its overall attitude. Paris: Love. Italy: Eat, and one of my own, Boston: succeed. So if your goals and attitude do not run paralell with this, you could end up being very unhappy and feeling displaced. In my beginning days in Savannah, my friends and I would play a similar game where we would personify countries into what kind of men they would be depending on the people we have met, random trips, our vague idea of international politics, and of course, by fantasizing and sterotyping. For example, we decided that Australia would be the man's man, the crocadile dundees of the world, taking you out into the woods and building you a tree house to cohort in. Italy would be your fantasy incarnate after cooking you the best meal you've ever had. Russia would be the drunk sadist, and Mexico would probably be good in bed, but steal your money in the morning.
Taking this approach as my first step at reconciling my first impressions of D.C., I tried to assign an identity to the area that was not influenced by any preconcieved hopes and dreams. I concluded that while one of Washington D.C.'s words is succeed, like Boston (which is why I assumed it to be instant bliss), other words that apply were American, systematic, strict, professional, security, obedience, intimidating and authority.
As I imagined the face of D.C., I realized I was already sleeping with the embodiment of this city. Jon, being all of these things on a professional level, presented me with this persona when we met, but as our relationship developed, I saw he is caring and protective, supportive and easy going, a sure thing. This gave me hope that one day, if I show it my best, and compromise my stubborn ways, loving it with determination and all my might, someday Washington D.C. will love me too.
An Australian I traveled with named Ben once asked me whether I was running from something or chasing after it. He explained all travelers are doing one or the other. At the time I didn't know how to answer, it didn't feel like I was doing either. Later, I saw what he meant, seeing as how I took refuge while in Savannah by leaving, I became known as the escape artist, the nomad of SCAD. When Jon and I immediately set up house and it wasn't what I had hoped, I realized that I moved to D.C. chasing an idea, a dream. The only problem with this, is sometimes in such optomism as in beginning any relationship, you are imagining a situation that requires you to be different, often times your potential self, better. You didn't imagine the emotions and mind set the situation requires in order to work out, you didn't take into account that instead of growth and self improvement being a reactionary side effect to your new environment, that you would need to be proactive and insinuate change in order to make the experience everything you want it to be. While human beings in a very primitive sense, as mammals we adapt and overcome, allowing us to live in various environments and survive. We can build our home anywhere. However, one of the more distinct qualities separating us from other species is free will and self determination, which until now I never realized attributes to the physiological sense of home. A place of self reflection, thoughts of who one used to be, is, or who one might become.
I moved to Washington D.C. to settle down but I am still the foreignor here. I am still traveling and exploring the territory and I will continue to do so, until I find my way home.
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