All I wanted was my bed, but it was a day away. That evening, I would be slumbering among foreign sheets and blankets in a hostel as favor to an old instructor but my body ached with disappointment and fatigue. It had been a lovely weekend in Minneapolis, but time had run out and I returned to Chicago for the dull drums of routine. My thoughts went into bully mode, pointing out all of my well-known flaws, as it does when I am too tired to fight them off. The morning would come without any comfort and resolution, forcing me to work without a clear disposition. All I wanted to go home.
Yet, as the train slowly crept into downtown Chicago, I was unsure of where exactly home is anymore.
During the weekend I had spent time with great people who seemed to have a strong sense of home. They were do-able, if not short, drives to family. They shared real houses with their spouses and intended to fill with dependents. The unknown didn’t seem to haunt them and they were simply happy with what they had.
I, though, wrestle with “what else” and have never been satisfied with just one home. There is the place that I am from and the place I live, but I want to collect homes as if souvenirs bought at gas stations off the interstate. I can pull them out one by one and use them as a reference to where I’ve been. Yet, there is great unrest in my collection. I miss the ones I had and put big exceptions into the ones to come while completely ignoring the present home.
DC wasn’t home. It was never intended to be a permanent place in my life, although I will always call upon fond memories when I think to my time in the nation’s capitol, as I do for Idaho.
Lesotho is home. It’s my African home, a place that now feels made up in daydreams of the life I wish I could have. Lesotho wasn’t home at first and I resisted it for a long time, claiming it as only the place a government agency had sent me. But the beauty of home, most often, is that we don’t chose it yet it finds us. We are walking along the same dirt path, greeting the same faces and in the big blue sky we feel this sense of familiarity and safety that only a home can provide. Without me consciously realizing it, Lesotho became home. It will always be home, but it’s not the home I need right now.
South Dakota is home. Pierre and Brookings, particularly, but I’ve always considered all 800,000 some residents as my neighbors. The big open skies, the fiery sunsets, the welcoming no matter where else I’ve been. This weekend, although in Minnesota, I felt great longing for the Rushmore State and it’s unending pride and beauty. I love South Dakota and it will always likely be the most home home I have, but it’s not where I am supposed to be now. It’s not where I am.
As I stepped out into the late July evening, I wondered if Chicago was home now. It’s still early to decide, but the potential exists. Sometimes I think that I will become an Illinois resident soon. I can picture raising children in a nearby suburb. I see myself as an old woman sitting in the park enjoying free concerts the way I did when I first moved to the city as a single woman. Chicago is the first place in a long time where I’ve felt that maybe settling down, making a life, isn’t such a terrible idea.
This morning, as I walked the few blocks from the hostel to work, I smiled big at the tall buildings poking into the blue sky. Maybe Chicago isn’t home yet and a long-term future here is still a giant question mark, but I know that I am happy. Chicago is where I am now so it is where I will be.