Monday, July 8, 2013

discovering home

for most people, i think that "home" is most likely the place where they grew up.  it was where they were raised, went to school and maybe college, and sometimes they stay there as adults.   sometimes they leave and come back later.  sometimes they only come back to visit.  and in some cases, people move to other towns.  i think in most cases, home is still the place where they grew up.  they have memories there--both good and bad--that tie them to that place.  it's a sort of nostalgia, if you will.

i'm sort of a unique case because i've kind of lived everywhere, so i've had a lot of what some would consider places to call home.  i spent most of my life "growing up" in pennsylvania.  i went to pre-school/elementary school in nepa (short for northeastern pennsylvania.  ever seen the office? scranton, pa.  around there), then boarding school in hershey, and college in selinsgrove (aka the middle of nowhere).  

after college it was virginia for three years.  i moved there because i was dating a guy in the navy and stayed there after the break-up because i had a job (actually, two) and bills to pay.  but after a couple of years, i couldn't stand my full-time job anymore, so i joined teach for america.  i moved to texas to complete my two-year commitment and stayed there a third year.

after three years of basically living in mexico, i decided it was time to come back to pa to be closer to my family.  i applied to grad school and got in and moved back to philly last year.  this was a surprising decision, because i never felt any strong connection to pa.  in fact, i told my mom when i graduated high school that after college i was moving away.  i did, but i never thought i'd come back.

i've gotten to do some pretty awesome things since i've been in pa.  i've gone to my parents' house for every major holiday, my birthday, mother's day, father's day, AND to help my sister move.  i've gone to new york city, i've seen olly murs three times (and met him and got his autograph), and i got to surprise a group of my former students right outside d.c.  it's been pretty awesome.  
olly murs's acoustic set (photo mine)
best buy in fairless hills, pa

now, this might be where you think that i've figured it all out.  oh, she left pa and then came back.  of course, pa is her home!  she's come full circle!  yay!  

except, that's not how this story ends.

no matter where i lived, it never felt quite like "home."  i'd called pa home, but only because that's where i was from originally.  the places i've lived were simply that: i lived in virginia, i lived in texas, i live in philly.  but even after being back in pa for a year, it still doesn't feel like home.  and as i think about getting older, i realize that i can't keep making major moves every few years.  aside from the financial burden, it's becoming emotionally draining too.  the question still remains: where is "home"?

a couple of years ago, i went back to virginia beach to attend a friend's wedding.  it was the first time i'd been back since i'd left.  while i was there, i had this weird sensation.  everything was familiar, and i felt comfortable.  it felt like home.  i didn't know what to do with this feeling, because it was unexpected.  i was still planning on teaching in texas for at least one more year, so i didn't do much with it.  

during my third year of teaching, i looked into possibly moving back to virginia, but then i found a grad school in pennsylvania, so that was that.  i didn't think about it much.  but after being back in pa for a year and realizing that i don't want to spend the rest of my life here, i couldn't shake the feeling: is virginia beach my home?

when i found out i would have a few days off for independence day, i decided it was time for a road trip.  i asked some friends if i could stay with them, and they graciously said yes.  i packed my bags and headed south.  

as i got off the chesapeake bay bridge tunnel and entered virginia beach, i was glad to be back.  as i drove down independence boulevard and then holland road towards the office where i previously worked, i didn't even need the gps.  i knew where i was, and i knew how to get where i was going.  things were sort of different, but it all felt the same.  just as i had felt on my last visit, things were familiar and comfortable.  i didn't have to think about it anymore, because i knew:  I WAS HOME.  

during my brief visit, i started to think about why virginia beach felt like home.  i hadn't spent my childhood there, so why did it feel like home?  i came to several realizations over the course of the few days i was there:

1) i freaking LOVE the beach.  i love being able to get in the water when i want to.  i love being able to go to the oceanfront and walk down the boardwalk on a sunny day.  i love the feel of a beach town.  i just love the beach.

2) i don't mind the heat.  my friends all complained about how hot it was.  i didn't even care.  i hate the cold.  i will take a hot, humid day over a cold, rainy, snowy one any day.

3) i have good friends there.  i had more of a social life in the few days in virginia beach than i probably have had in few months in philly.  the friends i had when i was there are still my friends.  even people i wasn't so close to when i lived there are friends now.  people made time for me.  they made sure i had somewhere to stay and things to do.  they were happy to see me, and i was happy to see them.  :)

4) i grew up there.  maybe not as a child, but as an adult.  after my boyfriend left, i had to figure things out for myself.  it wasn't easy, but i did it.  i didn't rely on another person to do things for me.  i did it on my own, and there's a sense of pride and accomplishment in that.

the first time i left virginia, it wasn't hard.  i'd hated my job and needed a change.  but i realize now that i didn't dislike virginia, i just disliked my job.  if i'd found another one, i probably would have stayed there.

this time when i drove away, it was hard to leave.  i even cried a little.  i'd finally discovered where "home" was for me, but i couldn't stay.  they say, "home is where the heart is."  right now, mine is in virginia beach.  and while i can't be there just yet, i know that it will be waiting for me when the time is right.

Chick's Beach on the 4th of July