I’ve taken to reading on the subway, which has led to some interesting conversations about my reading materials. I recently finished Borderlands La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldua. Although I cannot compare to the grief that Anzaldua has felt here in the U.S. as a lesbian Chicana, these lyrics from a Mexican song she included in the book resonated with me:
’¡Qué lejos estoy del suelo donde he nacido!’
intensa nostalgia invade mi pensamiento;
y al verme tan solo y triste cual hoja al viento,
quisiera llorar, quisiera morir de sentimiento.
(translated to the best of my ability, while trying to not lose the poetry element)
How far I am from the land where I was born!
Immense homesickness invades my thinking;
And in seeing me so lonely and sad a leaf in the wind,
Would want to cry, would want to die from sorrow.
I have never felt an immense weight of homesickness that invades my very being and would make even inanimate objects want to take their lives, but I am far from home and there are moments akin to this sorrow. A nomadic life is bittersweet. I grew up in the same city, in practically the same neighborhood for the first seventeen years of my life. I lived in three houses, two of which were a street apart. When I left home, that all changed. Since then, I have had seven addresses, and I have lived in three cities. If you were to put all the addresses of places I have lived in the past 4 ½ years into a Google map in chronological order starting with my parents’ house and ending with my current address, the total mileage would be 9,195 miles (there’s no “if” about this, I just did it – I’m not going to include a picture, because that would make your stalking way too easy). I don’t plan on settling down anytime soon. I’ve applied for a fellowship in a country that is 2,000 miles away, which I will hopefully receive next year.
The miles have changed me. Home is no longer limited to Siesta Key Beach. It includes the graffiti and to-die-for arepas of Orlando, and the soaring mountains and rich tapas of Aguilar de Campoo. I have learned to pack quickly and efficiently. I’ve also thrown out a lot of things over the years, although the book collection insists on growing. I’ve made friends in many places and learned to be happy everywhere that I have lived. I like living in new places. There is a sense of adventure that I get from moving that I can’t seem to get any other way. Yet, it is often in the middle of a happy moment that homesickness will invade the edges of my mind and I will remember that there are beloved people and places miles away. I will be in the middle of an earnest conversation about cultural differences between the Mid-West and the South, when I will be reminded of similar late night discussions in an apartment in Orlando. I will look over at my friend who is the loudest person at the concert, and I will remember my dancing partner whose very presence would attract attention no matter where we went. I will eat a fried egg and remember sleepy dinners with my Spanish host family crowded around the tiny kitchen table where I always requested a fried egg and manchego. I will watch a little boy roll around on the floor of MARTA, and I will think of my little brothers who are no longer quite so little.
It’s the people who make the places. Fortunately, thanks to technology, the people I love are only a phone call or an internet connection away. I have given many a Skype or FaceTime tour. I Instagram to show interesting moments in my life. I blog to talk about them in detail. Every once in a while, I pull out pen and paper and write a letter with stick figures dancing in the margins. Maybe someday I will encounter a culture and a place where I truly feel displaced, but for now I will continue pushing longings aside and learning from where I am (and writing long blog posts like this one). The leaves do not need to die in a mass pity party, although their current crimson show is beautiful.