Monday, April 19, 2010

I Can Make It On My Own, But My Heart Is In Ohio

From "Garden State":
You know that point in your life when you realize the house you grew up in isn't really your home anymore? All of a sudden even though you have some place where you put your shit, that idea of home is gone ... You'll see one day when you move out it just sort of happens one day and it's gone. You feel like you can never get it back. It's like you feel homesick for a place that doesn't even exist. Maybe it's like this rite of passage, you know. You won't ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it's like a cycle or something. I don't know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that's all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place.
When I was 20, I thought Andrew Largeman's words were profound. I fully expected that my life would soon fall into line with his sentiments. I waited & waited, but...

I never felt that way. Home is a lot of things for me, but it's never imaginary, never non-existent, never a forgotten or uncomfortable idea.

Home is people who knew me way back when - when I was good, when I was bad, when I was worse. The people who kvelled while I gave our high school commencement speech (at 25, it's still, somewhat embarrassingly, the proudest event of my life), who supported me when I decided to transfer home from my first university, who visited me in Columbus when I sang with the Ohio State Fair Youth Choir. The people who drove to college to pick me up when my ex-boyfriend died, who peeled my newly drunken self off my driveway the night I came of legal drinking age, who stood by me following a particularly ill-advised series of events on my 22nd birthday.

Home is also the friends who left me when I needed them most - but who I've stopped blaming. The friends who couldn't handle being mistreated, lied to, emotionally abused, who did what they needed to do - for themselves & for me. The friends who have forgiven me, through time & geographical distance, & with whom I have forged new & thankful friendships, independent of the bitterness of our past but always with one eye on what could have been - & what I promise will never happen again. For that, home is hope & gratitude.

Home is comfort food. It's Rockne's three times in two days with anyone who'll join me & French toast brunch at Bob Evans, Ohio's breakfast Mecca. It's snacking on bagels & dried fruit at my mom's house, indulging in peanut butter chocolate cake on my best friend's birthday, & garlic breading myself to near-death at Parasson's with my high school friends.

Home is a bed that never makes my bad back hurt, a shower with perfect water pressure, a refrigerator perpetually stocked with all the wrong things. It's unrelenting allergies that I'm willing to forgive for the trees I love, for my dog Missy & for my mom's tulips & for the park down the street. Home is clutter in a way that feels loving & lived-in, not unlivable.

Home is in physical spaces, in the myriad doctors offices that will still fit me in last-minute, the dentist I like the best, the green-haired goth who's been cutting my hair for half a decade. It's the playground where I found my best friend, the park where I had my first date with my first love, the swimming pool where I worked for seven summers, the gross mall a few minutes away that served as the center of so many shopping trips with friends, the campus that served as my childhood summer camp & later as my alma mater.

Home is, of course, my mom, who doesn't need a paragraph of her own but about whom I could fill a book.

Home isn't perfect. I don't always agree with the closed minds or the small-town mentalities that permeate so much of the Buckeye State. I want to talk about politics & current events more than any of my friends are willing to put up with, & I don't want to get married & create offspring just yet, if ever. But home is also those small-town Midwestern mentalities that can't be found anywhere else - the congeniality, the simplicity, the hard-working ways.

This August, I will have been away from home - from the people & places & memories that fill it - for three years. And I, my friends, am not a girl who does places-that-are-not-home too terribly well. But I've spent nearly three years in Washington, D.C. & I love it here, & I could write an equally heartfelt post on all the reasons that this is my home, too. I love it here & will stay as long as is appropriate & healthy for me - for the adventure, for the success, for the experience. I love it here, & I'm not ready to leave yet.

But I never experienced that "Garden State" feeling. Home has never been anything but home for me. It's changed, sure, but it's never stopped being the place where I feel the most comfortable, the most... well, at home. And you know what? Maybe that's OK. Maybe I had to leave to learn that I really am a Midwestern girl at heart. I don't just love Ohio because it's the only place I've ever known, because now I've known more, & I still love it most.

So maybe it's time to stop fighting it: Home really is where my heart is. I'm definitely not ready to leave D.C. yet, & I don't know when I will be - but Ohio isn't going anywhere. When I'm ready, I know it will be, too.
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