“So how does it feel to be back?” – those are the first words out of anyone’s mouth the first time they see me after I’ve crossed oceans or continents to land on home soil. Well, practically the first words; usually following Hello, Welcome Back, and Sweet Jupiter, you are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in real life!
I travel to my home country, the United States, about once a year, from whichever country I’m living in at the moment. Sometimes I’m living in Asia, and a 9-day trip is not worth it, so I’m cranky and horribly jet-lagged. Other times I’m living in Western Europe, and I’ve conquered jet lag, and am feeling quite jazzed about the idea of eating Peruvian food for the first time in months. Sometimes I’m in town for an important event, like a wedding, and other times I’m there for Christmas. I’m always quite happy to be in town for the events; less happy to be in town for the holidays (and by less happy, I mean completely broke).
For the past 6 years, I have chosen to live in places that have very little to do with what I once considered “normal” – exotic Osaka, rainy Dublin and now, small town Italy. Maybe I’m just a Tin Man, but even though I’m far away from home and people I love, I don’t get homesick. I don’t tear up at the sight of the New York City skyline. I do look forward to eating Chef Boyardee. I do look forward to seeing friends. I hate the flight, I hate the expense – for me, weddings and Christmas come with a $1000 cover.
Coming home, for me, is never simply vacation.
So I get the question, as I’m being smothered in giant hugs. I like the hugs – in Italy, we just kiss on both cheeks and that’s nice, don’t get me wrong, but nothing says “hello” like a good, solid American hug. So good to see you. Welcome back! So how does it feel to be home?
It feels the way it always feels. It feels like no time has passed, like I’ve never left, and that freaks me out. It feels like everything is different, like I don’t fit in anymore, and that freaks me out, too. I don’t feel like dressing up when I go out now because I’m not home anymore - my social life belongs to a place with 2000 year old ruins and I no longer have anyone here I want to impress. I’m hungry. I’m tired. I guess I’ll go take a walk down my old street and try to remember when my keys fit inside the door of 518 Avenue A, when I got midnight burritos next door, when I was someone who looked like me but someone who didn’t know half of what I know now. You look good, too. Congrats on the promotion. Why has my old bar been replaced by an Equinox?
These are not things anyone wants to hear. They miss you, the clamor to see you when you come into town, but without you, their world – your old world – has gone on turning. And so has yours.
“Good,” you say. “Being home feels real good.”
Been in these shoes? How do you answer?