Thursday, July 03, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

Someday, I'll write about something that matters, but right now, all of my brain power is wrapped up somewhere else. (If you're guessing "in your article?" you'd be wrong, btw.)

It occurred to me a few days ago that I'm going into my sixth year of living in Urbania. On the career side of life, this is a crucial year: it's the tenure application, it's the promotion application, it's the "who am I and what am I doing with the rest of my life" year. I'll have all year to panic and obsess about that.

Year six is also significant in another way: it marks the longest span of time I've spent in any one place other than my city of birth. I was holding off on this realization and its import by playing the rationalization game: well, technically, my first year I didn't live in Urbania proper; it was more like an outlying town. So I don't have to count year 1. That means that it's technically only been 4 years, going into 5, and thus, I don't have to really consider this until the end of next year!

But let's get real: the outlying areas of Urbania are, to some extent, suburbs of Urbania. Call it. I've lived here longer than undergrad town; idyllic post-grad city with the Big Red Bridge; Mid-Western podunk grad school town (for which I'm not complaining; I couldn't get out of there fast enough, and I wouldn't go back if you paid me); and even longer than I spent in teensy weensy Dissertation Village, where Senor Fluff had his job. [Dissertation Village is the home of what Frenchie has named Cornfield College, which is just too right.]

So what does that mean, exactly? Does that mean that this is now "home?" Certainly birth city, the neon jungle, no longer counts. If linguistic conventions tell me anything, I suppose it's significant that I tell people that "I'm going to neon city to visit my parents" and when I'm there, I tell people "I'm going home in a few days" (meaning Urbania).

But I've written about this before, (and whinged incessantly about it to everyone I know)---Urbania certainly doesn't feel like home. I've never quite gotten over the way people talk, the pronunciation of words, the social conventions. And then there are the other things: the seasonal lack of fresh produce that is abundant in the West year round, the creepy summer fecundity of plant life here. I miss desert, and mountains, and dry air. I miss Valley Girl talk and excessive use of the word "like" and sometimes, deep in my heart of hearts, I even miss women with obviously fake breasts. They're ornamental, you know?

So is "home" defined by duration or by affinity? And is there a point at which the first becomes the second? Or is it just a matter of course that I will always feel a bit like Dorothy, dropped into this place and wanting to go "home", only to discover that I was "home" all the time?

[And you were there, and so were you!]



Blogger Ashley said...

I just had this conversation with a colleague:

Me: "I need to go home for a few days; can you do my X favor while I'm gone?"

Her: "That's hilarious how you call it going home. You live here!"

Me: "Yeah, but here sure as fuck isn't home."

Then I was all depressed thinking about how I am essentially homeless. I hate academia sometimes.

Friday, July 04, 2008 1:53:00 PM  
Blogger kfluff said...

Precisely. Academic homelessness? Are we all nomads? Where are the people who are psyched about where their job took them?

Monday, July 07, 2008 3:05:00 PM  
Blogger Frenchie Foo said...

I'm feelin' your pain. At least 20 million times in the past SEVEN years, when someone has asked me where I am from, I have had to pause and decide if I am *from* my current location in Nowhere Suburbia or my hometown of Bluecollarsville. Either response feels like a lie.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008 9:05:00 AM  

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