Wanderlust, Spit in the Face, and What Nobody Wants to Hear
As Home As an Old Pair of Shoes
No truth is absolute. In fact, those that seem most true usually have a contrary truth that proves just as strong. Home is where the heart is. You can always go back home. Your home is always there for you. Or, maybe it’s more that you can never go home. Home is where your heart used to be, and where your memories are slowly disappearing. I don’t prescribe to any of these beliefs entirely, but they’ve become more relevant to me since I have returned to my origins.
It’s a dramatic change that has required flights across the globe and has diverted from a path that I’ve been on for years now. The change is part due to desire and part necessity. I have no serious complaints. Making a change to a place you’ve already spent a lot of time is like slipping on a pair of shoes you stopped wearing just a year ago. They still fit. They even feel like an upgrade in comfort because your foot has already molded its shape into the soles. The comfort is natural, but it is eerie. The immediate inclination might be, “I miss this,” but before long the thought comes to mind, “there’s a reason I stopped wearing these.”
Coming back has been a similar experience. I feel an unsettling certainty that I made the right choice in leaving and I remain uncertain as to how that relates to my return. In my travels, my location usually dictated my identity more than anything else could. It dictated my actions, my daily life, my routines, the way I thought about everything, and the way people identified me. To an extent, this is entirely understandable and largely unavoidable. But, fear peeks into the windows of my mind when I think about what it means to leave those places. Is it only a symbol of what I once was for a hiccup of time? Nobody else can see where I’ve been by looking at me. Is it no longer a part of who I am?
I don’t want that. It makes everything feel wasted. I want to take pieces of Taiwan, Japan, France, and every other place with me and pull them out whenever I’m feeling nostalgic so I can live there again, even if it is only for a moment. I can do that, in a way, with the languages I’ve learned, the pictures I’ve taken, the memories I have, and the bonds I’ve formed. I can’t be in two places at once, but I wish I could be everywhere.
Like Nothing Ever Happened
The phrase is well known in reference to returning from a long absence: “It feels like I never left.” I imagined the feeling would apply to my return as well, but the reality is frightening. Not terrifying. I’m not scared, but concerned. There is that sense as if I have always been here; in my original town, in my original state, in my original country. Time is measured eternally in the present. It is not the sense of never leaving that strikes me, but the sense that I never went anywhere at all. Like the three years abroad were just a gap of nothingness in my existence.
When I was there the places were as real as they could be. I held them in my hands, felt them in my lungs, and wore them on my body. They protected me, even in the moments where I felt most vulnerable and in the gravest of danger. Now they’re gone, and I want them back.
A Forced Marriage with a Smile
Wanderlust is a trendy word for travelers. I don’t appreciate the term. It simplifies the desire to something of a momentary fling. Maybe that captures the feeling for some; maybe I’ve got something different. I feel the same desire to go as I did before I left. It is not a lust it’s an infatuation. Not even that. It’s an obsession, a fixation, a fascination, and not one of my choosing. It’s a bond resembling a shotgun marriage, I’ve got it whether I want it or not. Lucky for me, I love it. That doesn’t make the effort to stay in one place any easier.
Many have asked me the same question in different ways, “how does it feel to be home?” They mean no harm, but their words feel more like spit in the face, filled with a malice attacking the lifestyle of a World Home I’ve tried to create. Usually, I respond by saying something I assume is expected, “it’s weird, “ or, “everything’s like I remember,” or the classic, “it’s like I never left.”
If I was to let them know how I really feel, I’d respond their question with a question of my own, “when did I leave home?” When did I leave? In fact, I feel more foreign and away from home now than I ever did abroad. I’m back to a world of quick-witted-sarcasm where conversation is almost invariably tied to pop-culture references. I’m no longer so fluent in this language. But, nobody wants to hear that.
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