Home is Wearing a Google Sweatshirt and Judging You

| October 12, 2017 | 0 Comments

I think, perhaps, that we form relationships with the places we inhabit — and since those places don’t change as quickly as we do, our feelings toward them act as barometers of our own development.

I have this in mind as I think of returning home this summer. I have returned before, yes — but only with a new school year in Boston awaiting me. What will it be like to center myself, to think in one timezone and not two or three? It will not feel like returning to where I belong — I share only the occasional feeling of commiseration, not kinship, with its people. It is a town of immigrants and intellectuals, awkward, detached, striving — and while some of these words do, on occasion, describe me, they are things I would rather run from than pursue. They tell me what I am, not what I value.

I have hated my hometown. By my senior year, the morning trip to high school caused me such anxiety that my stomach curled, my hair stood on end as I saw it each morning. But I have also loved people in my hometown, and I have recognized its virtues only when I was removed from them — so much good, cheap theatre for a suburb, such wonderful and diverse food, such beautiful houses, such a quaint downtown, such tolerance, such acceptance. It is rare to have so much intelligence in one place, and to have such value given to that intelligence. I have hated Palo Alto for the stress its parents pass on to their children, but aren’t there worse things than a habit of hard work? We could suffer from bigotry, ignorance, and close-mindedness… and while I’m sure we do, it is to a lesser extent than in many other parts of the world. We are privileged, and lucky to be so.

In the interim between college and my next adventure, I find myself yearning for home. To put my feet on solid ground for a while would be steadying. I miss the consistently excellent Asian food, the freshness of the produce, the temperate seasons. I miss my mother, our family friends, my huge blue room, and my enormous blue bed. Let’s not get me started on missing my dog.

And if part of me still despises my hometown, it is for two reasons. First, that I see parts of my town in myself that I would rather be without — the arrogance, the pretentious esotericism, the insecurity of the intellectual, the anxiety and neuroticism. I also see things in myself my town would rather I were without, and feel the pressure, even now, to rid myself of them. Should I really spend so much time writing?

Coming from a place like that makes a woman wonder if her restlessness is rebellion, or inheritance.

I picture my hometown as I prepare to greet her. She is a woman in jeans and a Google sweatshirt, possibly toe shoes. She wears no makeup — it’s unfeminist and impractical, you know — but her nails are perfect, manicured with a clear chrome-like gloss. She has probably subsisted on stir-fry, soylent, and almond milk for the past two months, and while she occasionally branches out to grilled or raw salmon, she must know its precise point of origin before risking ingestion. She is a software engineer, and while she likes the Lean In movement, she will sharply nod her head when you critique it, blurting out a slightly off-point, half-baked comment she had heard about it at work before continuing with whatever she had been saying originally. When you tell her you’re interested in musical theatre, or perhaps piña coladas, she’ll stare at you dumbly a moment, then mention every person she knows who works at DreamWorks.

I cannot relate to my town as I would to a mother — I have worked for Palo Alto’s love, and the town has told me that I should, perhaps, work a little harder. But I suppose Palo Alto isn’t a bad roommate, either, a friendly acquaintance if not a friend. My hometown cleans up after herself; she always pays the bills on time. And sure, she cannot tell jokes — they always come out stilted — but I can make her laugh at mine; I know her well enough for that. What more can we hope for, when we choose to live with other people?

featured photo credit: Chris Kealy Exclusive Club via photopin (license)

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