In moments of great stress, every life form that exists gives out a tiny subliminal signal. This signal simply communicates an exact and almost pathetic sense of how far that being is from the place of his birth.
– Douglas Adams
Husband and I are on the hunt for a new place to live. Or, more specifically, on the hunt for a town to settle down into on the outskirts of the city we’re now residing in. I end up writing a lot of fiction with location at the heart of the plot (Vacancy is no exception), so I’ve definitely internalized the significance of place, and I have a soft spot for the epic quest which you could call the exact opposite of a location-based plot. As Husband and I visit suburbs and feel places out, I’m finding myself contemplate what “home” is more and more, both where you live and where you’re from. I think I so often like to write my characters as finding purpose in their place by being impacted by it or trying to find it because I don’t know that I’ve ever really felt whatever it is that people experience as Home. In that sense, my stories, like those of so many authors, are wish fulfillment.
I find “where are you from?” a difficult question to answer. “Everywhere,” though easy, is definitely not accurate–there are people who really are “from” lots of places, but for me, listing off the specifics is tedious and really only blog post worthy, and just narrowing it down to one place feels like a disingenuous answer.
I could say I’m from New England. I was born in Massachusetts so technically my origin point, beyond my mother’s womb, is there, but I left before my second birthday. On the few occasions I’ve been back to visit, I’ve gotten this feeling, the “I’m in close range of the place I was born” feeling, but I don’t think that’s the same as Home. I was also raised by people who were born and lived almost their entire lives there, so the culture of the house I grew up in had a very New English vibe.
I could say I’m from Florida. I spent my formidable years there where my standard for everything was shaped. I learned about the world through a sandy lens, truly middle class, never saw–or wanted to see–snow. The suburb I lived in was sleepy but it was certainly not small town, nor was it anything close to urban. It just was. The defining characteristic of that city was that it had none.
I could say I’m from Ohio. I became a teenager there, a college student, an adult. But instead of being molded by the midwest, I always felt like I was just observing it. Even at twelve I found a lot of things fairly odd in Ohio, the accents, the mindset, the jargon, and while I conceptually understood that people from different places were, well, different, I never had to explain to anyone when I lived in Florida that I was not born there. Ohio never extended that courtesy, and I was perpetually an outsider by my own actions and those of others.
Once I was an adult, I moved back to Florida, and there was at the very least a small chance that I was chasing Home. I remembered being happy there and idealized it, but the reality of the state was that is was not the beachy, progressive, sunny place I remembered. Well, it certainly was sunny, but long gone were the sparsely populated beaches and the memories I had of people being happy.
So here Husband and I are in Georgia which is never a state I would have pictured myself in. Maybe we’ll live here forever, maybe it will only be a year. At this point in our lives and in the current economy, we follow job opportunities so that, perhaps, many years down the line, we can follow our hearts. But to where?
There are a couple places I feel like I would probably be happy, might feel like I fit in, couple possibly call Home, but the disappointment that was returning to Florida has really changed my perspective of that. See, I thought when I went back I’d feel like I belonged, that seeing the ocean and escaping what I thought was centralized conservatism would be comforting. That didn’t happen, (to be fair seeing the ocean still makes me cry happy tears, it’s just almost impossible to actually get to), and I realized Florida never really was–or it couldn’t have been–Home.
So maybe I’ll never have that feeling, and maybe that’s okay. My brain has figured out a way to give me phantom nostalgia every time I hear a song by Billy Joel or see a cassette tape, so it’s not like I don’t have any experience with the concept of “happy longing,” and maybe it’s better this way. Home can’t let you down if it never existed, and you can’t really miss something that was never there. Keep your heroes alive by making them fictional, right?
And when the planet gets blown to bits I won’t be nearly as sad as everyone else which puts me in prime position to snatch up the new Supreme Leader title.