“Home”: The Trouble with Transplanting

I lived in West Orange, New Jersey practically my whole life. As much as I appreciated its kitschy, suburban town from a Hollywood movie nature, the family owned ice cream parlor you could walk to after school and the zoo down the street from my house, next to the ice skating rink we all graduated in, I was excited to go to college far away, in a state I knew almost nothing about. (“The Grand Canyon is in Arizona,” That’s all I knew…kind of still is.). It was an adventure that only myself and four other high school kids in my class decided to embark on – leaving their closest friends behind to go off to schools on the other side of the country. I was ready to see a new part of the world and find myself in a new place.

But I never really thought about how difficult being a transplant would be.

transplant (n.) – a person or thing that has been moved to a new place or situation; (v.) – move or transfer (something) to another place or situation, typically with some effort or upheaval

I mean, I knew it’d be hard in some aspects – only coming home about twice a year, making new friends, how do I get my favorite pair of rain boots out there if I can’t fit them in my suitcase…..finding new favorite places to eat… – but I didn’t realize that when you leave one place you’ve been in so long and start to settle into another place, your roots don’t take hold in the ground so easily. The soil you try to grow in, as nice as it is, still feels foreign…but the soil you’re so used to has already started to change without you. I like to call this, the transplant phenomenon.

While in Arizona I’ll see the friends I’ve been in love with for years doing things together that I used to do too, experiencing growing pains, losses and victories, life together, and just being with each other. And my heart aches. I want to be there, I want to be with them. But I can’t. I’m not there. I’m 2,000 miles away. I’ve met amazing people that I’ve come to care about deeply here, but there’s something to be said about finding your footing in life with the people that you used to talk to about how life would be when you were kids. There’s something, unlike anything else, about celebrating achievements with people you’ve been celebrating with over a third of your life and leaning on people who’ve held you up for just as long.

When I go home to New Jersey, and unpack my things, call my friends and hop into their cars (or borrow my mother’s, how high school) it starts to feel like home. The friendly faces I’ve missed for so long are sitting across from me once again. The laughter that erupts out of me fills the suburban air once again and it feels so familiar. But the transplant phenomenon still makes the familiar strange. As much as home feels like home, at the exact same time, it doesn’t. I still feel the distance. I feel my friends going on with their lives without me, not that I expected them to halt for me, but I see it and I feel it. I feel them living life together – what they talk about together, what they’ve done together. And I can’t help but feel like my presence or absence doesn’t really make a difference. That whether I’m home or not, at the table or not, everything will be the same.

But I’ll go back to Arizona and still feel a little out of place. I’ve made friends but not as many as back home. I still don’t always know where to go or who to meet and what to do. And eventually, I end up feeling a little alone and feeling the difference in the soil I’m in. I feel like a transplant with nothing for my roots to latch on to. As much as it’s my home, sometime’s it doesn’t feel that way. It is home, but not always…

The transplant phenomenon is a weird but fascinating fascinating concept – constantly feeling out of place, even when you’re home. But that’s what it all boils down to in the end, isn’t it? A word you don’t really think about when you say it: “home”. The word changes when you uproot yourself and go somewhere else and try to settle in. When you leave your home…but make a new one, where is your home now? What is home? What does home mean?

During my freshman year of college, I refused to say the word “home” whenever I talked about the dorm I lived in, because it didn’t feel like home. I lived there, my stuff was there, all my snacks and dirty laundry, but it wasn’t my home…but sitting in my best friend’s dorm room, watching a movie together or just staring at our laptops together – that felt like home. That single room that wasn’t even mine, with her in it, felt like home.

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My home away from home

As difficult as being a transplant might be, leaving your old friends, missing your old friends, making new ones but still feeling out of place, perhaps the best part about it might be the opportunity it gives you to find out what home means to you. In the same vein as the phrase, “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” maybe you can’t really know where or what your home is until you leave it.

Perhaps instead of home being the state I’m from or the state I live in, where I grew up or where I reside, home is actually the people I love and the places I love being in with them. We all know a home doesn’t have to be a house. But maybe a home can be a person, someone who, whenever you’re with them, you’re comfortable, happy. Maybe home is just another word for, “something I need to be happy, something that makes me feel cared for and loved.”

And if that’s the case, maybe the other best thing about being a transplant is that you have the opportunity to find as many homes as you might need.

When we stay in one place, we have only so many homes, all of which give us something we need and love, but chances are those will be the only homes you’ll have for a long time. As difficult as it is to leave the homes we know, going to a new place gives us a chance to find more homes for different parts of us, parts that might not have received as much love in the place we originated from. Or, it gives us a chance to make bigger homes with new people, or let someone into our own homes and let him/her fix up a few things inside that, maybe we never thought could be fixed. We should always be willing to find new homes. Every person you invite into your life has something to give you. And sometimes, leaving what you know gives you a chance to meet people who you may never have met before or would have never spoken to where you were from, and gives you the chance to find new people to call home.

Buildings and spaces crumble. Rooms don’t remember you when you return to them and sometimes you outgrow them and they make you feel out of place. But the people you love and who love you will always remember you and even though things might change when you leave them, when you return to them, as far as they’re concerned: you are home because you’re with them. And even if you leave them, and they don’t see you, there’s always a light on in the room you occupy in their hearts.

And when you think about it that way, maybe being a transplant isn’t so bad – no matter where you go, no matter how far you go, you’re always home somewhere.

Home. I couldn't fit them all, but all are home.

Home. I couldn’t fit them all, but all are home.

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Cover Your Butts

Let’s talk about this past week:

It all started when I went to bed.

Here’s a fun fact for you (fun fact for some, possible TMI for others): I don’t like to wear pants/bottoms to bed. They’re constricting. They rub against the sheets and keep your bum from the warm, comfy goodness. I like to be free when I sleep. So I don’t wear pants.

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(Here’s where we get personal.)
After reading an article about proper feminine hygiene, I learned that some doctors, mothers, and other young ladies don’t wear underpants to bed because it allows certain areas to “breathe,” so to speak, which is better for…certain areas because they’re covered by fabric all day. Not wearing underwear to bed allows for certain areas to be free from foreign fabrics.

So…ever the mature young lady…sometimes…I don’t wear underpants to bed. There. I said it. IT’S COMPLETELY NORMAL. But I digress…

It all started when I went to bed one Sunday night with a nice glass of red wine to help settle me in for sleep (and prepare me for the Monday morning to follow). I laid on my bed, crawled under the covers, and grabbed my glass of wine, placing it on the bed next to my computer in a place where it stood by itself as I began scrolling through various hilarious posts on tumblr. A couple of minutes in, I shift to get more comfortable…and my precious glass of wine spills.

On my precious laptop.

It shorts, I get a miniature strobe light show from the screen, and then it goes dead. I freeze, staring at my laptop, my whole life, as it sits blank in front of me, only to be comforted by my boyfriend’s soothing words: “Oh man! That’s not good, dude.”

He jumps up, grabs the laptop, and runs to my bathroom, desperately trying to drain it of the fermented grape juice I forced down its gullet. I lay on my bed, not moving.

Paralyzed.

Helpless.

Half-naked.

My wordsmith boyfriend starts comforting me from the bathroom. A computer networking major, he starts spouting solutions and possible options for what just happened. I look at him, silent. I can’t even hear anything he’s saying. I stare as he speaks and think, “He’s got undies on. He’s so prepared. He’s clearly the smart one. I start to slip into one of my “It’s all my fault/I’m the stupidest person on earth/Stupidest isn’t a word/I’m an idiot” phases. After a lot of coaxing and cooing that it isn’t my fault, Captain Underpants gets me cleaned up and puts me to bed. He promises to fix everything.

The next few days I spend a lot more time in the school library, using and cursing their computers while my superhero boyfriend fixes my laptop. With all that quiet time to myself, diligently working at a cubicle (not going on Facebook or tumblr just in case the whole monitoring-what-youre-doing-on-our-computers thing is real) then walking back to my apartment alone later on, laying in bed before finding sleep with no dimly-lit screen to watch me, I had time to reflect. And as ridiculous as it may sound, I found a message in this whole mess. Maybe it was just the internet-deprivation getting to me but I found it all a beautiful lesson wrapped in a wine doused box:

Sometimes life throws you for a loop when you least expect it. When your guard is down (or pants are down) – BAM – there’s life ready to smack you in the face (or on the bottom). But that stuff’s going to happen. To us all. But you can’t go around blaming yourself for it. Everything isn’t your fault. Bad things do happen to good people, some more than it should. But you’re not an idiot. You’re not less than. You’re not the worst person on earth – you’re human. And not even in the sense that you’re human and you’ll make mistakes, but in the sense that you’re human and you’re experiencing life. And part of that experience is having shitty stuff happen to you. But you find the people who demand to be there for you, lean on them, take time to breathe, and you’ll make it through. So uncover your butt. Don’t be scared. Drink wine at your computer (it makes your keyboard smell like happiness). Make less-than-the-best-decisions. Live a little. It won’t kill you.

Life’s going to spank you at some point.

Might as well be comfortable until it does.

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Being Alone

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As much as colleges seem to tell its students how individual they are, how important their personalities and qualities are, it also gives the impression that should you choose to keep your individual to yourself, you’re just being selfish.

“Join this club!”

“This club needs you!”

“Be a member of this club or else you’re lame and have no purpose and no one will hire you for a job ever.”

How contradictory.

I like being alone. A lot. Not that I want to be alone forever – I’ve experienced days upon days (upon weeks) of alone-ness and if not carefully executed/monitored, alone-ness can turn into loneliness, and that’s a detrimental island.
But, back home I’d beg my mother to let me run an errand for her just so I could drive to the store by myself sometimes. Even a drive to Costco and back was enough to make me happy. And living on my own in Phoenix has shown me the comfort in being alone as well: walking here and there, running errands, shopping alone, people-watching alone. It calms me.

To be alone: “having no one else present; on one’s own”. That’s important, I’ve come to realize. It’s vital, even.

My freshman year of college I had a roommate mix-up at the start of the year and for the first half of the semester I had no roommate. My new friends asked, “Don’t you get lonely?” or “Don’t you want someone to talk to?” But the answers were always no. I had them, after all. I hung out with them, ate with them, laughed with them. But when I went back to my room, it was like my sanctuary. And I can’t wait for that sanctuary to come again. To walk into a place that was waiting for you to come back, just you. Maybe pat a dog’s head on the way in, cook myself dinner, pour myself a glass of wine and just be.

We’re surrounded by people every day – people we know, people we don’t. We fake smile at tens of people every day, tell people, “I’m great! How are you?” on our crappiest of days. We clothespin smiles to our faces every day. Then go out into the world and throw our energies at people, constantly, as we listen to them, or talk to them, work with them, smile at them. We wade through people all day. But when you can be alone, you can finally take those clothespins off your cheeks. You can smile for real, or frown if you want to. You can sigh, you can cry, you can scream. You can breathe. It’s just you and yourself. You’re the focus when you’re alone. No more pandering to others or putting on a front. It’s about you.

Being alone is necessary. And it’s okay to be alone or to want to be. Sometimes I’d feel weird about liking the idea of being by myself because college bombards you with pictures of friends hanging out, walking in pairs. Everyone (or what seems like everyone) is going to parties and if they aren’t, they’re always doing something, being movers and shakers. And all that is fun and and should be taken advantage of and it has its place. But so does being with yourself. It’s then that you listen to what’s in your own head. Too much time around others can drown out who you are. It’s in the silence that you acquaint yourself with yourself.

My favorite thing about parties (next to a few other things…) was being a tad bit intoxicated, but putting my key in my apartment door, locking it behind me, then walking to my room, closing the door, and laying on my bed, looking up at the ceiling. There, while the remnants of my time with others fades, the memories will play in my head, but I don’t have to talk about them; there’s no more buzzing in my ears. I could just close my eyes and be, feel the moment, feel the sheets, feel myself with no one else present, but me.

Up All Night

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I always seem to find myself awake too late at night: 1 a.m., 2 a.m., wide awake with my cogs turning, churning up thoughts about what I have to do the next day, what I didn’t do today, what I should have done, what I should be doing…(Some people might call that anxiety but I don’t have the money for a therapist so I’ll just call it something else.)

As I lay in bed now I’m starting to think that all this thinking is actually pining – pining for feeling something new before bed.

I can’t wait until I can put my head on a pillow and think, “Tomorrow’s going to be great.” Actually, considering the fact that I’m kind of a pessimist, I guess I can’t wait until I can put my head on a pillow and think, “Tomorrow won’t be awful,” which is almost a step in the direction I’d like to be going in, but I digress. What I’m trying to get at is I can’t wait until I can feel good about my next-days. I’m tired of dreading pulling myself out of bed to trudge to classes I don’t want to be in then trudge back to my apartment to stare at different textbooks for hours at a time while opening and closing Facebook to see that nothing’s changed since the last time I looked and I should probably be getting more work done.

I guess I’m just so ready to be doing the things I want to do. People tell you that being a college student is you paving your path to the rest of your life. But honestly, it feels like being a college student is you pining for the rest of your life. And not even the work/job/occupation part. Just, literally. Life.

My roommate and I often gripe that we can’t wait to be done with school because our time will finally be ours. OURS. What a concept. That we could go to work for 8 or so hours then come home and read a book, or go for a run, or sit in a goddamn chair for four hours, who cares. It’s OUR time. Everyone says you have so much freedom in college, so much time, but when you think about it: not really. I may have put my own schedule together but someone else told me which pieces were available for me to move around. And those pieces all need attention, hours of attention. My classes are like my children – they all want this and that and to do these things and those things and I’m laying in bed with the lights off, nursing a headache thinking, “Mommy needs, like, five minutes…” By the time I give them all the attention they feed off of, I’m so tired I couldn’t lift the TV remote if I wanted to. And you can’t get rid of them, due to a few legal reasons, not to mention the idea of your mother asking, “I haven’t seen any sign of your kids lately,” while you hum loudly to yourself and pretend you can’t hear her.

All I’m saying is I’m ready for Mommy time.
Okay, this analogy has gotten strange. Me time. Me. I’m ready to stop pining for better tomorrows and start having them because they’re filled with things I can’t wait to do. And don’t think me naive: I know I’ll still have to do a few things I’m not thrilled about, hell, we all do. But the opportunity for more is there. And I’m ready to go to bed and be excited about that opportunity: whether I’ve taken advantage of it or I’ve found another that I’ll be able to. The door is open. And I’m ready to stop having my thoughts keep me up until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. because I’d rather be up late to postpone my monotonous tomorrow full of boring lectures and reading dry texts. I just want to do things for me that make me happy, give me new experiences and I want to have time for those things without feeling guilty, neglectful, or regretful about doing them. I want to feel good about the day to come, finally and put my head on the pillow at night and say, “I did this today and that was good and tomorrow will be good too because I’ve got the chance to make it good.” Then I’ll probably think, “That isn’t exactly poetic, but it’s comforting,” then close my eyes, settle in and snooze.

Indecisions, indecisions

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When I was in middle school, I could never quite pick a screenname for my AIM account. There were too many options: “Should I make a screenname about my tomboyishness? Tomboygrrl18? Or a screenname about the music I like: greendaydarling92? Wait! People should probably know that it’s me their talking to, so, maybe something more obvious? Frenchiegurl98? There were so many aspects of myself I wanted to express and I just couldn’t pick which one. My solution, much to the confusion and undoubtful annoyance of my friends, was to make each account and have three screennames. Too bad life doesn’t work that way.

I feel like college is difficult for me because I have so many interests and care about so many different things. I want to be creative and think of funny slogans for commercials, but I also want to work with dogs, but I also want to help troubled kids, but I also want to plan parties for fancy businessmen, but I also want to…(see where I’m going here?) 

Everyone seems to have a focus. Sure they have interests outside that focus, but they’re attention is pinpointed on that one thing that they want to do. But me? I’m all over the place. And it puts me in a position where I’m constantly dissatisfied because what I want is constantly changing. The middle schooler in me just can’t seem to settle on a thing. 

Maybe that’s why I’m so ready to be done with college. I’m ready to open the doors and look around and window shop. Apply here, apply there, get this job, volunteer here. I’m ready to stop being bored and start finding the things that will satisfy my need to be all over the place and give myself to multiple places and causes that will make me happy. And maybe being all over the place won’t be so bad after all.

2013 was an interesting year…

I switched to a new major (well, side-stepped really: public relations to Communications – does that even count?), failed a class…failed two classes, spent three hours a day in a classroom staring at biology slides. I saw a pig fetus (in the bio class, I swear), failed another class BUT simultaneously got A’s in the other classes I had that semester. I had long hair, I had shorter hair. I found a boyfriend, found my favorite shoes from high school, made friends, lost friends and upgraded to ios7 (probably the worst of it all). But most importantly – I turned 21. I’m an adult!

…ish.

While I can legally purchase alcohol at the local grocery store and gamble the money I don’t spend at Safeway away, I realized that even though I knew most of the answers (because, hello, 21 year old here), I didn’t know all of them: “How do I know how much to put in a savings account?” “Do I really HAVE to dry clean this shirt…?” “What do you mean french fries aren’t dinner?”

I’m not an expert but that’s where this comes in. Here, I’ll be able to put together a manual of sorts on how to be an actual adult: a recipe box for dinners I can make that my parents would be proud of/actually want to eat, a giant thinking pad for adult situations like dealing with friends, dealing with school, dealing with money and figuring out how to order drinks at a bar without sounding like a nine-year-old trying to con candy out of their grandmother.

I have no idea how to be an adult but I like to think, with trial and error, that I’ll figure it out, if not for me, then for other adult-ish human beings.

It’ll be fun – because if we fail, we’re 21.
And we can buy booze.