Tuesday, April 28, 2015

no direction (away from) home

In the early 1990s, at an unmoored time between marriages, I was asked where I lived as I attempted to cross the border into Canada, in the Thousand Islands. I had asked to leave work early that Friday, rented a car, and headed north, for parts unknown. I had to get away (yes, with the realization that wherever I escaped to, I'd have myself still there along for the ride). The Canadian border guard might have uttered merely two words, "your home?", in an interrogative mode. Or he might have simply asked, "Where do you live?" His question stumped me. He said, "Tough question" sarcastically after I gave him a blank look for an eternal twenty or thirty seconds, possibly more. (Obviously, in these days that would be enough to have me hauled in for severe questioning.) During that blank-stare and silent duration, my mind was jiggering and figuring all kinds of personal calculus. Where do I live? I don't feel at home where I get my mail, eat meals, and sleep. I don't feel at home where I used to, with my wife and children. Maybe I can answer with the name of the city where I was born, but I really don't live there. This is hard. Where am I at home in the world? I eventually blurted out, "Syracuse," and mumbled something about needing a vacation.

I confess to similar feelings now, decades later. In some ways, the feelings are stronger, as are the risks and opportunities. This time, I almost feel as if the world is my oyster, so to speak, and I am free to go anywhere, live anywhere. True, financial circumstances pose challenges to that, but other circumstances open the doors. 

Where do you live? Where is home? You would think these are easy questions, and in some ways they are. "Grow where you are planted," the saying goes. That is true; I get that. But it's not just "no direction home" that makes one a rolling stone. It's also what direction away from home, maybe more so.

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