One Month Check-In: Home?

8 Sep

I had a weird moment today. It’s a wordy story for a brief moment so bear with me. I was sitting on the commuter train heading to work, as I have been for the past month. I opened my netbook, and using my iphone as a wifi hot spot (cool!), I went online. My homepage is The New York Times. It’s the last day of August and I only have access to one more free article this month because I refuse to pay for a subscription. So I’m scanning headlines to decide what I want to use my last free article on.

My eyes pause at a restaurant review for a Shanghainese restaurant in New York that looks interesting. My brain immediately says, “Don’t waste your last article on that – you can’t even go!” But here’s the weird moment: some other part of my brain took in my surroundings – dressed in nice work clothes on the train – and immediately responded with, “Oh wait, you can go! Because you’re in New York right now.” And I totally believed it for at least 5 seconds. Not long enough for me to click on the article, but long enough to realize that I don’t feel like this is home yet.

I’m a highly rational being. I don’t tend to confuse myself. So when my brain says you must not be home because it doesn’t feel like home, even though from a rational perspective it is my home now, it gives me pause. I know that one month isn’t very long when one has been away for 15 years, but I did spend the first half of my life here.

I’ve frequently gone on week-long business trips to New York City over the past ten years. There is no other place I’ve been as frequently for work. And my home life feels like what I’ve been doing one weekend a month for the past 5 years – traveling down to Southern California to spend time with my partner and our families, making meals and eating out, and holing up in his place to watch movies and play games. All the people, furniture, and decor are quite familiar.

Perhaps my brain just thinks I’m on an extended trip out of town, split between the two places I’ve arguably spent the most time in outside of the Bay for the past decade – but with all the comforts of my apartment. I don’t know what kind of signal I’m waiting for from my brain to believe this is home, not a visit. I guess the money question is why I’m waiting for my brain to tell me rather than my heart. If we put on a production of Wizard of Oz, I’d be the Tin Man for sure.

How do you know when you are at home? I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to figure out what “home” means to me. I listened to Talking Heads and Depeche Mode, wrote bad poetry, left the country. No answers yet. I wonder, did Dorothy know she would end up back in Kansas after clicking her heels? What if she opened her eyes and realized that she was still in Oz?

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2 Responses to “One Month Check-In: Home?”

  1. amsin September 12, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

    f*#@, i spent nearly an hour composing a message that i lost in a freak closing-of-the-window accident. i thought it was genius. something about life being transitory and yours being more than most, something about connection and time, and nan and manish and jeremy, blah blah blah.

    anyway, i think whenever you’re riding a train, you’ll feel like all the other times you were on a train. i imagine what made xiamen (?) and oakland home was your connection to the city. it was a place you walked in, lived and breathed, and i wonder if relying more heavily on a car further removes you from your habitat.

    a month is enough time to get a routine down, but not enough time to achieve a sense of community. maybe when you’ve gone out enough, on foot, having taken in the smells, sounds, and landscapes of costa mesa, it’ll be home. so, say 2 years and 7 more months. just kidding.

    maybe your head is finally reflecting what your heart feels?

    • cil1977 September 20, 2011 at 11:33 am #

      thank you for the time put into your lost message. 🙂 i’ve been trying to walk more in our neighborhood, but it’s hard to feel a sense of community when you end up walking by fast food restaurants and car dealerships for 20 minutes straight. i just gotta find another part of OC to be connected to, i guess. the search continues…

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