I’m probably not supposed to admit that. Schoolgirls get homesick. But it’s true.
When I come home from work at night, I don’t really feel like I’m home.
At first I thought it was because I was accustomed to a 90 minute train ride to decompress, and my 20 minute drive wasn’t enough time to make the transition from work to home. But that’s not it. Then I thought maybe it was the fact that all of our furniture hadn’t arrived. Or that the neighborhood is still under construction with 5 new homes going up all around us. Or that the boys haven’t started school yet.
Those are probably all contributing factors, but none of them really tell the whole story.
My wife likes to remind me that, except for a short summer abroad in Spain, I’ve never really lived outside of New England. And she’s right. If you consider New York part of New England, which it isn’t, she is absolutely right. I grew up in Connecticut, spent a summer in Boston, went to college in Vermont, lived in New York for 3 years, went to grad school in New Hampshire, and then returned to Connecticut. All of those places were within easy driving distance to where I grew up.
Not that I’ve ever been the type to return to the safe haven of home every weekend. Not even close. But perhaps knowing that I could made all the difference?
I think it’s more likely that those places have always been familiar to me. And I could branch out from them slowly. I had been up to Vermont skiing a million times when I started college there. New York is an easy train ride from Connecticut and I had a network of friends and old classmates always nearby. Not here in Georgia.
My network here consists of colleagues from work, 1 friend from business school and 1 friend from college. Actually my college friend just moved to Houston, so I don’t even have that. We’re totally on our own down here. It feels like I’m living in another country.
I love traveling to other countries, so you would think this experience would be pleasant. But it’s not another country, and it doesn’t look like another country. All the stores are the same as anywhere else. Chain restaurants and chain grocery stores and chain clothing stores – except for the gun stores, the Chick-Fil-A’s and the ridiculous number of churches, this could be any town in America.
I was in New York last week on business, just a day trip, and it really drove the point home to me. I took a taxi from LaGuardia to Times Square and passed a dozen familiar places, but suddenly I was an outsider looking in. All the things I hated about New York receded into the background–the lack of light, the garbage on the streets, the in-your-face commercialism–and all I saw was a vibrant city. A vibrant city I had voluntarily left, just so I could make a few extra bucks.
“What have I done?” I thought.
Home is wherever my family is. That’s what I had convinced myself of. And it’s true. But that’s not all home is. Home is a place where you feel comfortable, where you have friends and shared experiences, where you feel safe.
And that will take time.