I have traveled all over the world in these last 21 years of life, and I have only once felt the feeling of home: in northern California.
I still talk about it to anyone that asks – or points to my shoulder tattoo. (Fair warning, you’re going to get the story of California when you ask about my uniquely-designed mountain-scape). It was the place for me where everything connected: sea and sky, food and sun, happiness and peace on the Bay.
“Have you ever been to California?” I was asked on Friday night by a new friend, referencing the various National Park patches hand-sewn on my jean jacket.
“Oh, let me tell you!” I exclaimed excitedly – the happiest I’ve been in these wheelchair-bound days, even if just for a few moments of stowaway nostalgia.
I’ve thought about this making, faking, and feeling of home a lot in the last month of senior-year schooling.
In Social Geographies, we’re learning that home is not only a space and a place, but an ideal – sometimes imaginary, always illusory. Home is as much a place of reproduction as it is a site of consumption: of values, of politics, and of identity. I think about how much learning truly takes place in the home, how much I learned (and didn’t learn) from my childhood home days.
Coming to terms with my months-long recovery – still very much ‘in process’ – from two stress-fractured shin bones has also forced me to consider calling Ohio my home for a little longer than I envisioned.
I’ve said for as many months that I intend to be back in the Golden State upon graduation in May 2018.
Now, I’m hoping I’m just walking by Christmas.
Ohio has been the geographical space I’ve called ‘home’ for 21 years, yet always reluctantly so. I’ve never felt a surging sense of pride for my little state squished between the Midwest farmers and the Appalachian mountains – but it is truly the only state I have called home for an extensive period of time.
I see all these people, in Columbus and in my little college town of Athens, proudly wearing their Ohio “home” shirts; I can (somewhat shamefully) say that I’ve never thought about purchasing one for myself.
Resentment, anxiety, and anger have clogged my thinking since returning from my whirlwind summer of sightseeing and sorrow.
Resentment, because I am now physically forced to consider my life right here instead of over there, like I wanted, for the foreseeable future. Anxiety, because now I’m starting to think of myself as ‘trapped’ here, possibly forever unhappy at the unchangeable circumstances unfolding in my ‘broken’ state of affairs. Anger, at the unfairness in the world, but most of all, anger at my own stupid self.
And all of these emotions are stewing at a time when I am sitting still – contemplating my anxiety-inducing ‘life goals’ for next year’s post-graduate reality that I can no longer run from.
Contrary to popular assumption, I’m clueless now that I can’t physically achieve my so-called dreams of conservation on the West Coast. Clueless, and wholeheartedly terrified.
Where do I go from here?
Connecting the lessons I’ve learned in the past year, I realize that central to this idea of homemaking is the feeling of home in my own body. In California, I was eating and acting at optimal weight – and felt weightless about my health worries. In Ohio, I’ve always struggled to find myself ‘at home’ in my own body; I wonder now if this psychological dissociation of ‘home-seeking’ in Ohio has prevented me from remaining truly ‘at home’ in my own body.
Just as I wrote about this new homecoming on my blog last month, fellow blogger and Internet acquaintance Candace Rose Rardon phrased it this way: “the greatest homecoming of all [is] coming home to ourselves.”
“The desire to go home that is a desire to be whole” –Rebecca Solnit
Perhaps this is why I felt ‘at home’ in the Bay Area – because I was happy and healthy. Because I had found friends and a surging new wave of self-confidence. Because I, a forever-searching, fragmented free spirit, had finally finally felt whole.
My mentor last year encouraged me, whenever she caught me wistfully slipping back into San Fran nostalgia, to think about adding those elements of personal happiness into my everyday life here, in Ohio.
Never I selfishly contended. California is such a special place in my heart, there’s no way I would try to emulate that life here in the most forgotten region of our country.
Stuck in a rut in Ohio for the time being, I am going to have to piece together a happy, healthy home if I want to get better – in both mind and body.
My future homemaking elsewhere in the world is going to depend on my homemaking here in Ohio – the making of home in my own body.
Home, then, I wonder with earnest: Does it have to a geographical place? Or can it really be anywhere I choose, anywhere that I and my body can be?