In The Heights (I’m Home)

Thursday 3 December 2009

This past Monday evening, I had the pleasure to attend the Broadway musical In The Heights (winner of the 2008 Tony for Best Musical) in New York City.  It has some great music, but the story itself got me thinking again about home, a topic I discussed in the fall of 2007 on another blog post: home IS where the heart is.  In that post, I discussed how as I travel around, I take people with me in my heart, always bringing “home” along for the ride.

In The Heights got me thinking a bit more about how much that fact is or isn’t true.  I may get the love from many places, but what location feels like home?  In In The Heights, the main character’s parents emigrated from the Dominican Republic, which he feels to be his homeland and wishes to return, but really he, along with many of the characters, are in a struggle to reconcile the lands they or their predecessors came from with their attachment and feeling of “home” in the Washington Heights community of NYC they have become a part of.

Jumping around from place to place the last 2 1/2 years, never staying for more than about six months in one place (often less), it’s been a long time since I’ve felt any location or community as a true “home,” at least in the ways In The Heights creates such a feeling.  Thus, I am taken back to the place I grew up, NW Ohio, and the place I went to school and spent two years following, Chicago(land).  When you’re in a place that long, you develop a lot of connections not only to people but to the location and livelihood involved.  Thus, attending this musical got me thinking deeply about returning to my “homeland,” one of those two places.

However, it also reaffirmed another commitment within myself in this job search, and that is making a commitment to whatever community it is I find myself in next.  It’s been too long since I’ve really been able to commit to a location, but that’s one thing I’m thirsting for as I seek my next job.  At one interview, I was asked where I saw myself in 3 years, and I said I saw myself doing whatever it was I ended up doing next (in that case, that specific job). I see my next step as a longer term commitment than I’ve made for a quite a while.  I want to connect with a place again, something I’ve only tangentially done the past 2 or 3 years.

So while I have two settings that, deep down, feel like “home” to me (along now with multiple houses/residences), I think there is room for more.  While I think there would be some comfort to returning to Ohio or Chicago, I also believe that embarking on a new adventure in a new city/location has the ability to create a new “home” for me, wherever that might be.

I’ll just be waiting expectantly (the topic of my next blog) to find out exactly where that might be!

movement is challenging

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Being a transient/nomad/wanderer — whatever you want to call it — isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  I think I can speak as an expert, currently living in my 4th zip code in the past 12 months, with the two months prior to that being out of the country!  There are upsides to it, to be sure, but what brings me to blog today are challenges!

What’s striking me today as a rough part of jumping from place to place (to place) is having so many people I love scattered so far away from me, and what that means for my sense (or lack of) cohesive community.  Virtually every time I want to visit a friend or family member, it’s a “trip,” which usually means some sort of planning in advance, doesn’t happen very frequently for a repeat trip, and most likely means an overnight stay with whomever I’m visiting (unless I’m visiting multiple people in one place — which happens sometimes — but I still have to stay somewhere).

I’ve been lucky enough to keep pretty good connections with my family and with friends I’ve met in past stops along my journey, via telephone and letter writing, but there’s something special that happens in the presence of another that seems (at least for me) to rejuvenate more deeply the bond I have with the other.  I love all these people very much — that’s part of why I make the effort to stay in touch with them — but if I had my way, I’d love to pack us all up and set us down in one place, able to enjoy cookouts and hikes and movies and festivals together at a moment’s notice and still be able to head back to our own beds at the end of the day.

Every time you live in a place, you start setting down roots.  And every time you leave, you may keep some of those connections, but you have to virtually start over again.  And I’m getting tired.  I don’t know where I want to set down my final roots, which is part of the challenge, but it’s getting exhausting having to reboot myself every few months.

And I know this can’t just be just.  My generation is probably the most transient yet, and this wears on a person.  I may be taking it to an extreme lately, but any amount of restarting is challenging.  And part of the problem is that because everyone else is so transient, too, it’s hard to plop yourself into much of a meaningful group once you get to a new place because there hasn’t been enough time for one to form yet (not always, but in many instances)!  Instead, our generation seeks community online or isolates oneself in front of the TV, a book, or any other way they can find.

I do think my moving all around has given me some perspective, but when I finally plug myself into a community that I will want to engage and connect with, will I have enough energy left to use all the experiences I’ve been through to get there?  I guess I’ll see!… One day c:

giving thanks (again)

Thursday 4 December 2008

I meant to post this last week (on Thanksgiving proper), but I guess I hit the wrong button.  So here it is:

I’m never quite sure why people read old blog posts or how people even find some of them (though the stats wordpress gives me tell me some of the more popular old posts are found through various kinds of searches).  So it was somewhat surprising to see last week someone had clicked on one of my posts from last November that, when I saw the title, I didn’t know what it was about.  It was good, though, because it got me to read my own post again and realize that the same feelings rang true, almost a year later.  The post was a reflection for Thanksgiving upon that which I was, and still now am, most thankful for.  So if you don’t mind, I wanted to just point you to that post again, encouraging you to give thanks for that which is most important to you as you read what is most important to me.

giving thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you might be.

the people in your life

Tuesday 19 February 2008

Ever since my blog about 1 million Iraqis being killed in the past 5 years, I’ve been thinking about whether or not I actually might know a million people. The perfectionist in me wants to make an excel spreadsheet list of all the people I’ve met (and remember enough to write down) in the past 25 or so years of my life, but the realist in me knows that would take quite a while and probably not be worth it in the end — and it would likely become just another list I’d want to keep track of as I meet more people, kind of like my ever changing list of movies I’ve seen (those I want to see but haven’t just aren’t rated).  Plus, it would kind of be sad, deconstructing the humanity of relationships into simple spreadsheet.

So instead of turning my life into meaningless statistics, I instead try to think about all the lives of others that have intersected mine. There are definitely people I’ve been in the same room with that I’ve ran across but I would not say I “met” and certainly never “knew” them. And there are surely people who’ve “known” me but I never had contact with — those students for who my name came up in conversation and who were aware of my presence but for who I wasn’t their teacher would be one example. If you let the idea of “knowing” someone require the act of an introduction and/or conversation having taken place, the list becomes a little more exclusive, but even then I’m still amazed at the variety and abundance of people I’ve met and places I’ve met them.

School is one of the larger segments of ways I know people. Since I went to such a small school containing pretty much the same people K-12, perhaps I know fewer people than others that way, though with that small town, too, I came to know most of the people in the community in one way or another, and they can’t be forgotten about. I also know a lot of people form college — classes, dorms, and students groups — and if facebook would have came around a few years earlier, I might have a better estimate of just how many people that might have been.

Church and groups with a spiritual aspect are definitely another big connection for me. I’ve attended (regularly) about 4 churches in my life and have built lasting relationships with people in all of them. I’ve also attended many conferences, retreats, assemblies, and gatherings where I added more people to my “list.” I’ve met and formed many amazing relationships with those associated with Lutheran Volunteer Corps — volunteers, LVC staff, and the many people I met during my trip or otherwise recruiting for LVC. And this section would in no way be complete if I didn’t mention Camp Mowana. I’ve probably worked with around 100 people who were on staff while I was there, and then there are the hundreds, if not thousands, of campers and pastors/volunteers who I met during my time as a counselor. Because I have an issue with names, many of those campers would probably be slighted in a name-specific list format, so that’s another reason not to make one.

And then you have all the other somewhat random ways in which I’ve met people — parties, game night, community organizing, friends of friends, rugby/curling/frisbee/etc., jobs/work not listed above — I’m sure I could name many more ways. I invite you to reminisce about the many people who have stepped in (and maybe out) of your life, making it what it is today, for they are the ones who have truly brought it joy and meaning.

And I invite you (as always) to leave some of your comments about ways you’ve met some of the people in your life and why you find them special — be as specific or as general as you’d like, but I think it’s good to really give credit to those who make this life worth living.

giving thanks

Thursday 22 November 2007

When I really sit back and think about the things I’m thankful for, I could name a lot.  But what’s really been hitting me hard lately is how much I’m thankful for people.

People in my life take all shapes and forms — some I live with, some I work with, some I hang out with, some are family, some live close by and others live hundreds of miles away, some I talk to daily and others every month or so, some I exchange letters with — and that is good.  I am thankful for the many and varied ways in which I connect with others.  I’m 25, but I feel that I have, at least for me, recognized that the meaning of life is all about building and sustaining beautiful and edifying relationships, and in all I do, I really strive to make that my priority in living.  I would suggest it of you, too, if it isn’t already.

I am thankful to have so many people in my life who I know love and support me and all the endeavors that I might carry out, who love and respect and honor the unique person that I am.  Acceptance is something that I have become to hold very dear to my heart, because in this world, it’s somehow so hard to find that.  I am who I am — my beliefs, my upbringing, my wonders, my actions — some of which can be changed, some of which cannot.  I continue to evolve as a person, and I truly value those in my life who recognize and encourage the changes that are happening.

As it goes right now, I don’t seem to be on the “standard” track of living, which I continue to daily accept as my destiny, and to have others who truly respect that as who and what I am is invaluable.  While I could probably muster up the energy and courage to do what I feel called to on my own, it becomes so much easier when there are others there to offer their love and support.

On this fourth Thursday in November, 2008, I thank all those who give me the love I need and meet me where I am.  I am truly honored to have you in my life, and I pray that I am doing the same for you.

home IS where the heart is

Tuesday 25 September 2007

I went to the Friends Meeting again this past Sunday.  The way things were looking, I thought we were going to go the whole hour with no one talking (in only my second week! — I wonder if that ever happens?), but with maybe 8 minutes left someone spoke, and then two more did a bit of rapid fire before things ended.  What hit me, in all their talking, was one simple line a woman who spoke on homelessness and it’s counterpart, home; it went something like this: even in our transient world and ways of life, we still have a home that we take with us, even if we are away from the place we might otherwise think of as our home.

For someone like myself — a person who, looking backward, has lived in DC for a month and a half, Milwaukee the 12 months before that, camp the summer/3 months before that, and in Evanston, IL before that — it was comforting to hear that I still have a home.  And I think she spoke true about that, especially for me, home right now isn’t a certain address or even a certain city.  People like to say they’re a “citizen of the world,” and I suppose that would be the best way to characterize the state I’m in.  Maybe you’re there now, too, in that search, on a journey like the one I’ve been talking about for a while now, while still thinking about the possibilities of settling down or finding a location to call your own.

For me, I think the word “home” will always mean more than the house I sleep in.  Home is really the love of people I carry with me.  I have an amazing assortment of friends and family across the country (no one really across the world at the very moment) that I think about often.  They give me strength and hope.  If you’re reading this and know me, you’re likely one of those people.  Since I have this great group of people there, cheering me on, I don’t feel, necessarily, like I’m without a home.  In my upcoming 5 week trip, I plan on staying with at least 9 people I know, with most of the others being someone directly connected with someone I know.  In a way, I’ll be coming home at each of those visits.

I suppose that’s what makes me a little more easily do this journey thing.  I do think I’ll need some close connections wherever I am, but I have so much love coming to me from all over that it never really feels like too big a deal to move somewhere new.  My address may change again and again and again, but I will never lose my home.