i have a question...

Thursday, January 11, 2007


This one's more about the city. How I thought I'd be coming home. But how it turned out to be something different than that.

July 2005

Everyone is calling this a homecoming. But I feel like I foolishly left my home on the other side of the coast. It took me almost six years to stop feeling homeless in California. And just when I discovered a family there, I left. I don’t know why I’m sustaining this heat, this unyielding post-graduation poverty, this listlessness, resignation to mindless employment. I don’t know if this is typical post-graduation confusion or if I’ve really made a mistake picking up and leaving the only place I have felt at home since I moved across the country (the other direction) before high school. I feel like any soul-searching, any growth I could be going through is stifled by the simple necessity of income, by the pervasive heat. I’m writing because I’m frustrated and feel a bit lost.

It’s a different lost feeling than when I entered therapy 2 ½ years ago and figured out who the hell I am, after something crashed within me and I realized there was no one in my life that I could talk to. I know who I am today; I just don’t know who I am outside of school, without my circle of comfort, in a city that I should know better. It’s figuring that part out that I’m reluctant to do, for reasons I don’t know yet.

I knew this move was going to mean something different for me than for my roommate. I’m an adult now, in a city I’ve only been a kid in, but this is the first time she’s been away from her family. It’s not that cataclysmic beginning of adult life for me. I went to college 250 miles away from my family; I go months without seeing them, and I’ve been a fairly independent child, in terms of distance, since I started going to summer camp when I was 8. Maybe even since my parents got divorced and began to share custody of my brother and me, when I was 3. We were shuttled from one home to the other, never quite feeling settled, not knowing in which place we were supposed to feel at home. My mother’s house was the homestead; I always felt like a visitor in my father’s. There were different sets of rules, different standards of living, different foods, different routines. My mother worked at home; we always ate meals together, and I slept in the room that had been mine since I was born. I remember eating cold cereal and french toast for dinner alone in my dad’s large, empty house, and I lived in three rooms in 6 years, once moving out of the large room that had been mine for years for my brother when he came back from rehab. Seriously and constantly displaced in my own house.

I believe it’s because all of this that I am such a desperate creature of routine, that I cling to comfort, to the familiar. Searching always for somewhere I can relax, for people I can trust and confide in. These things are precious to me in such a way that I don’t understand people who take them for granted and I sort of resent people who have them all. A family without divorced parents living in the same house for years and years is something I’ve never known. I understand that no “ideal family” exists, but my family seems to win a lot of awards for chaos and upheaval, not to mention hostility.

I was uprooted from everything I knew and was left to reconfigure my life during an unhappy adolescence, feeling greatly out of place and unsettled for almost all of high school and even two years of college. I suppose it’s the kind of unhappiness everyone goes through during adolescence, but my feeling of homelessness seems unique in comparison to the other teenagers I knew. Now I’ve found myself back in the city that once was home, and I’m homesick for something that never really existed. Is that what homesickness is? The desire for something ideal, the yearning to be surrounded by only the good of our memories?

I feel a bit like I’ve taken a couple steps backwards in my self-knowledge. I’m impatient with my unhappiness because it took me 20 years to figure out how I could and would be and deserved to be happy. Then it took me 2 more years to make it that I actually was. Or was beginning to be.

I moved after graduating college, seeking the romance of New York City, chasing images in my head of sunny apartment rooms, late mornings in cafes, taking lovers in a large, white-comfortered bed. The reality is always less romantic than the fantasy. What I need to remember is that I’ve figured out some of what I need, that I have the ability to take advantage of what seems like even the most hopeless situation–I survived high school in a frighteningly conservative, cultural wasteland of a California town. I spun that experience into an incredible college experience in Berkeley, taking initiative and making my own opportunities. Patience with myself is something I’m still learning; giving myself a much needed break, giving myself time to find another niche.

I’m not going to starve. I’m not going to die of boredom or inactivity. I’m no longer a 14 year old, lost in a city that bustles too fast for me. The noise outside my apartment window is too loud sometimes, and the current of people on the streets sometimes threatens to pull me in the opposite direction. But I just need to brace myself against the current, plant my two feet and take firm steps forward. I’ve done it before.

1 comment:

Gretchen Iversen said...

Hi. Just left a profound blog about your story, but this is my virgin blogging experience, so by the time I registered, it erased my comment. Maybe this connects to the theme of your story: expectations and resulting illusions....? And having to start over and create something new rather than recreate something not relevant anymore. Hmm. Thanks for the inspiration, I think I will try to upload some songs I have been meaning to learn how to put online. Will keep you posted. Rock on. G