Today I had a conversation with a French friend in my close-knit grad program that triggered about an hour of sweet-sad self reflection. We were talking about future plans and where to live, and another friend had commented “I bet you are going to stay in Europe!” right before I unveiled my master plan/strategy of working in a think tank in DC. While the conversation made me more aware of some possibility of getting a job at an English speaking think tank or polishing up French to business level during my upcoming trip to Paris (more to come on that), I was still convinced of going to DC. Why? Because that is what feels like home. My French friend who lives in Paris plans to live in DC after the program because she has worked there before, has a close group of friends, and an American boyfriend there (she also prefers beer to wine, in case you are wondering). I asked her if she thought Paris was better, but she said that she is a tourist there, where in DC, she knows people on the street. While I’ve never been quite that settled in DC, I can definitely relate. Ironically the 2 people I was having the conversation with had worked in DC previously and one had even originally planned to go to graduate school there instead of Philly, where I am now. My French friend said, “Home is where you like more even though there is no real reason.” Not a bad definition from a non-native English speaker, especially considering that there is no real equivalent of “home” in French.
This conversation really got me going. While I could almost feel myself tearing at the thought of not living in France, I guess it’s a good sign when life gives you so many great alternatives. I’m glad that there was a good option to give up, and it’s not like I have a contract signed to work in DC. I told these friends, “the professional and personal opportunities are better, that is just the way it is.” I know with enough determination, I could make it happen anywhere, and with a little more, I can get back to France for a long period of time. Of this, I have no doubt. The thing is, I was also really touched when she talked about that feeling of belonging to a place and circle and just being comfortable. I’ve never really had that feeling. Sometimes I just feel sad but not about a particular thing, even though on all accounts I am happy with the way things are going, and I just feel alone. Not necessarily lonely, and not reminiscent of my family or high school or college or any situation I’ve ever really been. Today, after seeing tweets and Facebook posts about homesickness and having that conversation, I was able to put my finger on what it was: homesickness. I’m just homesick for a place yet to be, and people I have yet to share it with. Maybe some people I haven’t met you, others I think I have. Home.
Sometimes I have felt like Odyseus, just lacking a destination. Other times like Alice in Wonderland, and now I realize I’m a bit like Dorothy. “There’s no place like home,” but like Alice and Odyseus, she enjoys her wanderings and they are what enable her to appreciate her home, be better as an individual, and belong to her home more. As I long for my home, I am about to embark on a three continent adventure as part of graduate school and I’m leaving for Paris in 9 days.
While I might long for home, and realize that is what I’ve been searching for the whole time, I also realize I would never be at home anywhere without the real feeling of inner peace my wanderings have brought me.
When I started this part of my journey and began graduate school, I wanted to map out options and tradeoffs and optimize my route. In a way that’s what I have done, but instead I think it’s better to realize the destination has just revealed itself to me, because I am willing to listen to my heart. The peace that results from listening to my heart and acting on what it says will be the key of building that other part of home, the relationships that will encircle and support me, binding but not tying me down. I feel that recently, I have met the most real and awesome people and had the most touching, intimate, memorable moments like the one I have just described. But that has required me to really open up to people, and be honest about what I am thinking and feeling. I needed to accept myself first before opening myself up to others, and I am so glad I have. Like the career plan I had encoded in me in a way since before I even started college, I have had the keys to “home” with me all the time. I could have been just so authentic and real at any point; it was as close as the beat of my heart. I am sad I wasn’t, but I accept that I needed the path that I took to hearing it.
So I felt sadish for about an hour just walking the streets enjoying the evening air and the liveliness of Center City. I was thinking of how Philly reminded me a little of Baltimore, where I visited a friend I hadn’t seen in about 4 years this summer. She called me to talk about her journey to inner peace and I couldn’t stop telling her how glad I was she called at just the right moment to lift me up. All things happen at the acceptable time for a reason.
That being said, I accept my time gallivanting for what it is, and I will not try to deny it. There is a reason I put myself in this gypsy position, and I am really happy looking forward as much as I am missing my future home. Instead of trying to chart a course and plan what a home will be like, I will welcome the people, places, and experiences that will stay with me forever, where the heart is.