Monday, January 13, 2014

On Staying Home

Charles River, Boston, sunset, photograph
by Lyndsey Graves

I am back from Georgia, stone-ground grits in tow, looking out my Boston window across the Charles River at Cambridge lights. I wonder how anyone could be lucky enough to live in two such beautiful places.

Another part of me wonders, can anyone live in two places?

Halfway through my second year in The North, I still feel like a Southern girl who is here mostly by accident on a soul-searching, world-saving journey. I wonder if I will still feel this way by year three, year four, by graduation. I wonder how long a place sticks to your bones once you can no longer find decent mayonnaise, fried chicken, or Mexican food.

I have a family and a history in the South; a boyfriend and an occupation and stereotypical, beautiful Young-People-in-the-City adventures here in the North; and it has all gotten the word “home” into something of a mess. I am put out.

I am cross because I have been made to believe (by the inescapable power of stories and assumptions to define words like “adventure” and “success”) that I am either anomalous or simply silly. My longing for a home – a place to stay – is a personal quirk, and probably a feeling to be quashed. Moving around is just what people do. Sacrificing a career to remain among your friends would be foolish. Get out of Cleveland, Tennessee or it’ll suck you in forever!

bright lights, big city, skyscrapers, night, blurred photo
They told me family, friends, and home are small things for small people. To graduate hoping only to commit to these things would have seemed almost like a betrayal of my education. I had a degree designed for joining the upper middle class, and the upper middle class has Careers. Family, friends, and home are determined by, molded around, slipped in between Careers. Now, even if I want to choose not to buy in to the upward mobility imperative, I sometimes doubt that basic “job security” still exists to the point that I’ll ever really settle down, plant a tree, and watch it grow. Much less if I’ll ever see a community take shape under the trials and fondnesses borne by time and familiarity. Yet isn’t that what we want when we want church? Isn’t that what we’re trying to say when we latch onto phrases like “doing life together”? Isn’t that what we need in order to practice the vulnerability we all want to preach about?

I don’t what to sound hypocritical, in that no one actually forced me to move away; or ungrateful, because I realize I’ve had some rare opportunities. I don’t want to sound regretful, because I’m not. Yet I’m also not convinced that my decision to go was intrinsically better than a decision to stay. If I’d never fulfilled my high school flight of fancy by living in Boston, I’d still have things to do and people to see. If I’d never left the Southeast, I still could have chosen to learn and grow. You don’t become interesting just by leaving a place.

Maybe I just chose to ignore them, but I remember few if any people saying all this to me when I was thinking about these choices. No one impressed upon me, perhaps because no one thought, that moving so far would be a big and costly decision, even a decision somewhat at odds with human nature and its insistent need to become part of a place.

crafty, quilt, home sweet home, coffee mugAnd maybe this is all just the wistful wonderings of someone fresh from a nice visit home, recently under the influence of Wendell Berry and a class on sustainability. Maybe nice visits home are all anyone can really ask for. That’s what I feel I’m supposed to believe. Or maybe the world really has gone just a bit mad, sending young people to far-flung corners just because. I’m not even sure what I think I’m saying we should do. I’m certainly not quitting school and leaving again. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to remind us of some things. I know now that our families are not non-factors. Our friends are not non-essentials. Our selves are not somewhere else, and yet we know this fractured world is not our home. 

Lyndsey lives in Boston, MA where she is pursuing her Master's in Theological Studies at Boston University. She enjoys Community, Mad Men and Beauty and the Beast and her spirit animal is a sloth. She would like to know if this is some kind of interactive theater art piece. You can follow her on Twitter @lyndseygraves and you can find more of her writing at her blog To Be Honest. 

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Photo credits:
Image #1 via Robert Bauer 
Image #2 via Eric Robinson 
Image #3 via Penelope Waits 
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