Five years later

I forgot that I made this blog. I was scrolling through my own Facebook profile when I came across the link. What a fucking arrogant title I gave it! So pretentious, right?

The older I get, the less I write. In a lot of ways I thought of it as a natural response to maturing. So long, my angsty adolescent journals! When it comes to writing, my fear is always that someone I know will discover and read it one day. My next fear is that no-one will ever read it, and my worst fear is that someone will read it and not care.  I’m contradicting myself. It’s ok.

I’m in a phase, likely short-lived, of having an abundance of unexpressed emotion. This is my last full week in New York City before I move, and I’m a kind of bittersweet sad. I’ve lived a lot of places, and I’ve always been ready to move on, but I found happiness here in New York. For the first time ever, I don’t want to go. I get it, why people write songs about this place. Cue Alicia Keys, howling, “In Neeeeeeeew Yooooooork! Concrete jungle where dreams are made of!”

The next place will be good. I’m confident. But, for a moment, I’m letting myself feel sad about moving on from this time and place in my life where I was really, really happy.

I’m not very good at goodbyes. Friends and family keep asking, “when are you graduating?” and “when are you moving?”. Unfortunately, it’s all a weirdly gradual transition, so I haven’t given real answers to anybody. Today, a friend of mine said, “Just pick a day and make it finite so that people can say goodbye.” It’s good advice. I honestly didn’t think that anybody would care about saying goodbye, though. I still don’t. This is a transient city, and in my experience, when a person leaves, the others move on pretty quickly. I doubt I’ll be missed in much more than a passing glance because life just moves on. But, maybe my friend is right. I’ll take his advice anyway.

Goodbyes feel either overly dramatic (it’s not like we’ll never see each other again, right?!) or overwhelmingly normal (why are we just waving at each other after a brief side hug, I mean we were close, right?!). Today I did say goodbye to a group of people I spent a lot of time with, and I finished by buying everybody shots. When all else fails, I suppose a round of shots is always a good way to go out.

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Round of shots at The Red Lion

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Michigan and Other Places

With all the news about the bankruptcy, I’ve been thinking about Detroit lately.  Actually, more accurately, I’m trying not to think about Detroit.

I’m not from Detroit, but since living overseas I find myself identifying with the city and claiming it as my own; to me, it has come to represent Michigan as a whole, and my home.  I used to be excited to read about Detroit on the rare occasion it popped up in the news, but these days I cringe when I see a headline and immediately turn elsewhere.  What Detroit is going through pains me.

The news is reporting what I’ve been aware of anecdotally — Michigan is dying, almost dead in fact, and on life-support.  I’m often nostalgic for my home, but what I miss doesn’t exist anymore.  I used to go home to visit a multitude of friends and family, but if I were to go back now I would have only one friend to visit, only one friend who hasn’t yet emigrated elsewhere to a better place.  On Facebook I saw pictures of my old group of friends “up north” for the fourth of July weekend.  But the group has changed a lot so that I only recognize a smattering of faces, and they’re of people I’m not in contact with anymore.  It makes me wonder if I did go back to this place I miss, Michigan, would I be accepted?

There’s a deep part of me that wants to return home, but alongside that desire is a fear that that home doesn’t exist anymore.  Michigan is dying, friends have moved, and I abandoned the state and those that remained.  I wonder if they could forgive me for that.  I wonder if I could fit in again, and find a home again.

I expressed these thoughts to my boyfriend of almost four years when in a flash I finally understood an infinitesimal part of what his life is like.  Anis is Palestinian, and for the first time I was able to feel genuine empathy for his situation.  I asked him how it felt to not have a recognized country, to have a land that is not technically his, to be homeless.  I finally began to understand.

Geography is important.  I have great respect for my father and his opinions, but one I don’t share is his thought that geography is irrelevant.  He travels a lot and he says that all places are the same and if you’re there long enough, you’ll like it just as well as anywhere else.

I disagree because in geography you have cultures, societies, languages, landmarks, people, and atmosphere.  Every city feels different.  When I visit a place I am able to learn about the people and culture based on how the city feels.  Switzerland is xenophobic and dull, Lithuania is depressing and defensive, China is ignorant, Paris is haughty, Marrakesh is traditional, Istanbul is modern and diverse, Jerusalem is mentally ill, and Detroit is struggling against itself.

I realize that I’m rambling; I apologize.  To sum up what I’m saying, geography matters to a person, and I think it matters a great deal more than we credit it.

Detroit’s problems are obviously affecting the people currently residing there, especially the senior citizens, but they also affect all of Michigan, and anybody who has a connection there.  I don’t think all of my friends wanted to move away, but they were literally out of options.  Ideally I would love to move to Dearborn, near Detroit, because there Anis and I could live in both Michigan and Palestine at the same time.  But that will never happen, because there’s nothing there for us.  There is no industry, no jobs, no life.  I wish I could say, “I’m going to move back to Michigan one day!”  But I won’t. Because that would be going backward.  I want to go home, but my home is dying.  And even though I’m far away, and possibly not even accepted by my home anymore, it still pains me to see it like this.

 

Love

I’d almost forgotten about love.

I’m trying a new church, and today they talked about love.  That’s to be expected at church.  But somehow, it felt new again, because I had almost forgotten it.

Since moving here I’ve learned a different kind of love, one that is more action-based and practical, and that is good.  Very good.

But what I miss is community love.  Saginaw, Michigan, the town where I’m from, was once again named one of the top ten most dangerous cities in the United States.  While the city itself doesn’t have a lot going for it, I know that if I am ever in need, I can return to Saginaw and be enveloped in love.  Between my high school friends, family, friends of the family, and teachers, I always feel a community of caring around me.  Even strangers are friendly, because the Midwest is wonderful like that.

It’s likely that I’m seeing things through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, but one love I know is real, that I miss, is the love of my family, both immediate and extended.  We do the best we can with Skype, but I do look forward to the day when they’re a phone call or a quick plane ride away.  But for now I’m thankful I at least have my niece Layla putting her mouth on the screen to give me kisses.  That’s the best.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful or unhappy, because I’m not at all.  I have love in my life; and it is beautiful and rich.  It’s just not all nearby, or in one community.  So I guess at this point I’m just being greedy, because I want it all.  I want to live in a global society where I travel and move, but I also want the benefits of a life-long, loving community.  Is it possible to have both?

Candles at Home

When I Skype with my parents I mostly talk to the inside of their noses.  This is a vast improvement on our family home videos where my dad would film the ground while he was walking.

Usually, though, my parents eventually manage to set the iPad down or hold it stable long enough for me to see them.  And it makes me homesick.

I hadn’t realized it before, but I’m not homesick for the house or place, which I’ve never lived in, I’m sick for a nostalgic sense of home.  Home isn’t my parents’ house in the States, home is wherever they are.  Particularly my mom.

She’s an over-packer, but not the typical kind.  She doesn’t over-pack because she’s scared of being unprepared for a situation, she over-packs because she brings gifts with her wherever she goes.  In her suitcase 50% of the items belong to a category called “I brought this because I thought you might like it.”  These items are sometimes new, but often they’re from her closet or own personal things.  No matter the length or distance of the trip, if she’s seeing friends or strangers, my mom fills her suitcase to the limit with “things you might like.”

Because her suitcase is filled with “things you might like”, my mom creates home wherever she goes.  When I visited my parents in Shanghai last year, my mom managed to bake for me a ham she brought with her.  When she visited me in Jerusalem I was left with an entire table full of goodies that I had missed, mostly things I had missed subconsciously.  And when I saw her for just one day in Las Vegas at Easter, she brought local newspaper clippings, clothes, and knick knacks from around the house, which she held up one at a time saying, “Do you want this?  I thought you might like it.”

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My parents making me feel at home in their hotel apartment in Shanghai

My favorite, however, is how she brings candles with her wherever she goes.  The first thing she does when staying in a hotel room is fill it with burning candles that bring the smell and aroma of home.

After being relatively nomadic for several years, one of the things I most look forward to in the future is creating my own home.  I haven’t learned how to do it yet.  For my next move, I’m going to give everything away, then start fresh and try to create a home for myself.  I’m sure I’ll bring my mom in to help me.  In the meantime, I’ll burn my candles, the ones my mom brought me.