Since moving to New Zealand, I have accepted rides from strangers. I have been kicked out of a bar (by association). I have habitually jaywalked.
I have faced the prospect of being alone in a place so very far away from home.
I have been more straight-forward with people on difficult subjects. I have dressed up like a zombie. On purpose. In public.
I have asked a total stranger for his phone number (for a friend). I have met the total stranger with my friend at a bar (not the one I was asked to leave).
I have successfully driven on “the wrong side of the road” for over a year.
I have had fun. I have been scared. I have been sad. I have been angry.
I have learned that I like Indian food, that I like eating more vegetables than meat, that I can tell the difference between a good laksa and a not-so-good laksa. I have learned that pumpkin and kumara humus is delicious.
I have learned that some things in life are sacred. They are, in no particular order: love, loyalty, curiosity, friends, laughter, and cornbread. But only cornbread like my Papa used to make. I have accepted that I will never be able to make it the same way.
I have learned that the core of me is the same, no matter where I live or what I do, but that I can change. That I have changed. That I am changing. That I will continue to change.
I now wear patterns (occasionally) and layers and boots and scarves and don’t worry about standing out.
I think about all of these things as I get ready to leave for a trip home next week.
I wonder if my friends will think I’ve changed? Will I think they’ve changed? Will I miss Wellington? Will I want to leave Savannah? Will I ask for coriander and courgette instead of cilantro and zucchini?
Will I unthinkingly say, “Cheers, mate,” instead of “Thank you.”? Actually, that’s a very unlikely scenario.
I have no idea how I will respond to any of these potential questions. And (maybe this is the Kiwi creeping in me), aside from mentioning all of these things here, I don’t really care.
I can’t wait to see Wright Square, to have lunch at the Pink House, to eat real pulled pork with mustard sauce, coleslaw, and maybe a rib or two.
But in saying that, I know I’ll miss hearing the Tui birds sing every morning and that cheeky cat who saunters along the waterfront. I’m going to miss Rahzoo and walking the waterfront on Sunday mornings.
In short, I’ll miss home when I’m home.
It’s a very odd feeling to have one foot in Savannah and the other in Wellington. The halves of you are stretched between two planes of existence, and you never wholly fit into either.
Though in saying that, the constant stretch and pull of finding my center when I’m not sure where center is has provided unparalleled opportunities for growth and experience. And I love Wellington, and New Zealand, and on most days, feel like this *is* home.
At its worst—on days when I feel isolated and sad and unsure of where I am and what I’m doing—having two homes is a displacing, discomfiting existence.
We need an anchor in life. I disagree with Simon and Garfunkel—we are not rocks, we are not islands. But even if you were an island, sometimes, the best of yourself fails you, and you need the warm, comforting blanket of familiarity and history. You need the terra firma of a back garden in Brunswick,Georgia or a front porch in Savannah,Georgia. That is your rock. That is your island. That is what gets you through the times when you’re experiencing a sort of emotional vertigo.
I saw a German film at the NZ International Film Festival called, At Ellen’s Age. It was a weird, disjointed film about a middle-aged woman whose entire life turns upside down and—in an effort to discover who she is without the definitions of her job and her partner, she careens from one bizarre experience to another. I didn’t particularly like the film, but I knew exactly where Ellen was coming from and why she did some of the things she did. I understood the choices she made in the end.
We are all pursuing our authentic selves. Part of human experience is stripping away the layers and definitions and wondering, “Who am I”?
I had a voice teacher who told me once that she would study voice until the day she stopped singing. When I asked her why she would do that, why she would continue to learn about something she had obviously mastered, she replied:
“When you stop learning, you stop living.”
Here’s to a few more rides with strangers, trips to unknown, faraway places, and the knowledge—that when I need it—my rock is still there. Waiting for me to find home. Wherever “home” may eventually be.
Where is your home? How have you dealt with feeling displaced, whether by geography or something else?