Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Are we home yet?

(From my journal) August 31, 2009 - "I think I underestimated how lonely a new city can be...starting from scratch. Meeting new people who are all nice and friendly, but really just missing the close friends of my past, doubting if I'll ever be able to forge those kinds of connections anew again...
"Home" is so lost and distorted for me by now, with pieces of myself scattered across two continents and more cities than I can count, in the hearts of so many people I've met along the way. I just have to have faith that this place will work out, too; it just may take awhile."

I find myself coming back to the theme of home again and again in my writing. (It's been nearly two years since the last time I wrote about home, so I figure it's time again.) I've been reflecting on it a lot lately, because I've now been in Seattle a full year and a half, I am training new hires at REI (many of whom, like myself, are Midwest transplants), and I have begun to have friends who've come to Seattle even more recently than myself.

What a pleasure, finally, to feel like I have a good grasp on this place, that I no longer have to print out Mapquest directions to get to somewhere else in the city, that I can share my favorite cafes and restaurants and parks with newcomers, and above all, that I have cultivated the kinds of friendships here I feel are going to be friendships for life.

It took some time, though. Even with Alan here with me, and Seyeon in Seattle when I first arrived, the first few months (and then some) were often hard. Despite the excitement of being somewhere new that I felt confident would someday feel like home, the truth was that it didn't right away - far from it.

October 2, 2009 - "I took a shower in hopes that it would feel cleansing and rejuvenating, and it did, sort of...but mostly I just rubbed my eyes in frustration, feeling the hot water beading up on my back, and imagining myself years down the road when I'll look back on this time in my life and remember how lonely the city used to make me feel once upon a time. Cities ARE lonely. I'm so in love with this place, but what of it without Seyeon? I miss Ohio."

Am I homesick for Kansas? I get asked this. I have the same reaction that I see from many other new arrivals in Seattle when asked if they miss where they came from - a sort of scrunched up face, then: "I miss my family. And friends. But otherwise, no, not at all."

Don't get me wrong. I feel grateful for where I grew up - in a nice house in a beautiful neighborhood, across the street from woods and a creek and a hundred continuous miles of forested bike path, within walking distance of my elementary school and Chipotle and a Starbucks-knockoff coffeeshop, with a pond and waterfall and huge old trees in my backyard.

Me + Kansas = Home, Version 1.0. (Photo by Kelly Anderson.)

I regret that I ever found amusement in the bumper sticker "Kansas: As Bigoted As You Think It Is" (a play on Kansas' admittedly silly state motto, "Kansas: As Big As You Think It Is" (what? Coast People can't even point to Kansas on a map; they have no preconceived notion of its bigness...and even if they did, since when is "Big" a sought-after quality?))*, because in spite of a few intolerant people I grew up going to school with, there's no use in perpetuating unproductive stereotypes.

Truth be told, Midwesterners are great, and I maintain a fondness, and even protectiveness, in my heart for my home state despite my lack of desire to ever move back. I'll defend Kansas if you're Coast People and make flyover jokes. I am offended when you think Kansas and Ohio are next to each other. I get excited when I see KU bumper stickers on cars out here. Many of my favorite people in Seattle are from the Midwest (mostly Iowa!); I fell in love harder with Ohio while at Oberlin than I did California while I was at Stanford; I brought my born-and-raised-Midwesterner boyfriend out here with me. Yes, I feel an ache in my heart for wraparound porches and big skies and affordable houses and all-you-can-eat buffets and feeling safe running alone at night.

Me + Ohio = Home-like love, but not lifelong home-like love

But with all that said, I feel deep, deep in my soul that the Pacific Northwest is home for me. It's been a gradual settling in to this place, an exercise in patience, in finding my groove, in training my body to love running hills, in learning to take Vitamin D supplements to help make it through the gray blanket of winter. I thoroughly enjoyed the honeymoon phase while it lasted, and now am warm with the enduring comfort and affection I feel on the other side of that. I get to relive that discovery and share it with new Seattle arrivals, while ultimately appreciating the way Seattle has, for me, developed the ragged Realness I learned about once upon a time from the Velveteen Rabbit - the kind that's brought about only by real love, and never goes away.

Me + Washington state = Definite home-like love

Those of us that chose to move here, we were all drawn to the Northwest for different reasons. Nevertheless, there is a single and persistent thread that's brought so many of us out here, and it's one that can weave a home for anyone who simply has the patience.

May 3, 2009 - "I feel connected again, and a part of this world! So many times since I've moved here, Seattle has felt big and lonely and maybe not the right place for me after all - and nothing is scarier than wanting to crawl back into your own cocoon, into something familiar and safe again, only to realize that that home base has disappeared and you've no choice but to squint into the sunlight, spread your wings and fly. But today, right now, Seattle feels like home."

The lonely entries tapered off and ceased altogether a long time ago; it's hard to even identify with them anymore. Nearly a year since that last one, I feel content and comfortable here as though I have, in fact, spent my whole life delicately tucked between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountains, nestled next to Puget Sound, living where the highway signs point to either Vancouver or Portland, and I feel darn lucky to be sandwiched in what seems to me to be pretty much the greatest place on Earth. I am grateful for all that this city has given me in the past year and a half. Thank you, Seattle! I'm still in love with you.

*With apologies for the double parentheses. Annoying, I know. Couldn't help it.

1 comment:

  1. i thought this was an extremely beautiful and profound entry. thank you yitka!