My submission to The Moth Ann Arbor Story SLAM topic: “Home” Video available here.
I grew up in the small town of Chelsea, Michigan. And when I went to college I attended The University of Michigan, only 15 miles away. What this means is that, for the first couple decades of my life, my world was rather narrow, geographically speaking.
But while I was I college, I met my future husband and he changed all that. Together we have traveled to 5 continents, and over a dozen countries, we have lived in Australia, South Africa, and France. My whole world expanded.
Even so, I cringed when my husband told me that he wanted us to move to New York City. I guess I had a typical Midwestern view of a typical New Yorker and it wasn’t very flattering. I figured that they thought of their city as the center of the universe and I didn’t care to reinforce their self-important view by living there myself. But, worldly person that I had become and open-minded person that I aspired to be, I agreed: we would go there for one summer and see how it went.
Predictably perhaps in retrospect, I fell in love with the City. We decided to move there full-time and over the next couple of years became real New Yorkers. I made friends, got a great job, and came to see the city as my home. That was my life until about a year ago when, suddenly, sadly, my marriage ended. I moved out of the apartment my husband and I had shared and never moved back. I found myself facing the choice of where to go next. After all, I had moved to New York for him, and there were still a lot of places I wanted to see, I could go anywhere.
I decided to try to make it work in New York. Over and over last winter I threw all my possessions in the back of a cab and moved around New York’s innumerable neighborhoods, trying to find a place that felt right. Until, on a sunny Saturday morning in June I woke up from wherever I was living in at the time, with clarity of purpose that was entirely unfamiliar to me. I knew that I had to go. What I realized that morning was that my life was such that I could excuse myself from it, step away, and nothing would come crashing down. My job was the most important thing I had going and I knew I could get it back if I wanted it. I wasn’t in a relationship, I didn’t have a lease, and I hardly had any stuff anyway. And those were the reasons why it would be alright if I left, to say nothing of why I really really needed to.
See, I still looked back fondly on all the amazing travels my husband and I had, but they were different to me now: those were things we had done, and that “we” was no longer there. I wanted something of my own, some un-tainted memory that I could always be proud of no matter who I ended up with, no matter what I did after.
And so it was that my parents dropped me off on the side of the road in the small town of Sutton’s Bay, Michigan. In one frantic month I had quit my job, packed up my life in New York, and more or less prepared for what I was about to do. What I did was walk. For 6 weeks, I crossed 700 miles of northern Michigan, backpacking by myself.
That trip was an incredible experience, it was everything I needed.
Afterward, I once again faced the decision of where to go next. I was entirely unfettered, I could go anywhere. So it came as a surprise to most who know me when I decided to stay here in Michigan. I had always planned to come back eventually, but I used to think of it as something I would do after I’d seen the rest of the world, checked every other option off the list. Now, I no longer expect to find the perfect place just by looking hard enough, I know I have to cultivate it myself. And, while there may be more exotic places, more beautiful even, only one place is my home, and that matters more than anything else. Coming back home meant putting down that endless question of “what if there’s something better out there?” It was an admission that the known is good enough, possibly greater even than the unknown.
I think of it this way:
Each place is somebody’s hometown,
Each person is somebody’s ex.
What’s new is not always better.
What’s old is not always less.
It’s good to be home.