Rocks and Islands and Life’s Eternal Question

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.”

Well, indeed.

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?


14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. LeeAnn
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 11:20:22

    I am totally in the “who am I?” phase too, my friend. I wrote a blog post today that has some of the same themes – finding your voice, living your authentic life. It is odd – I wonder why we are going through this now in our lives – and not before. I cannot imagine adding to it the incredible physical upheaval you have gone through. I can’t wait until you get your feet back on Savannah ground. xoxo


    • kiwijenn
      Sep 12, 2011 @ 12:52:38

      Such good questions, LeeAnn! My take on it is that I spent so long pursuing the “right things” that I never stopped to question whether they were the right things for me. Do you feel that way? Can’t wait to read your post–they are always so great! Home in a week or so! xxx


  2. Shelley
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 11:36:37

    I was born in Hastings and lived my childhood and teen years in Hastings and Napier. My grandparents farmed hill country in Central Hawke’s Bay and as a child I had many memorable adventures exploring creeks and native bush on their farm.

    Since reaching adulthood, I have travelled around the world, expanding on those experiences of childhood. I have learned to make “home” the place where I lay my bed. I have learned to be comfortable when I am in strange, sometimes potrentially dangerous places in the way I have learned to take care of myself and also in my ability to establish friendships; to respect the people and their customs whereever I have found myself to be.

    But always, whenever I return to New Zealand and make that short journey it is ONLY when I can look down from the heights of Titiokura or across the flatlands of the Takapau plains and down onto “my” place, Heretaunga and the hills of Argyle, Te Mata, and the rolling green sward of Waingaru, my grandparents farm at Tikokino, do I really KNOW I am home.

    I understand how you feel, darling. xoxo


    • kiwijenn
      Sep 12, 2011 @ 12:50:31

      Thank you so much for sharing this, Shelley. I can hear your voice and know the reverence you have for Tikotiko. It is a beautiful anchor. xxx


  3. Trevor Landers
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 13:42:33

    I don’t think your life looks anything like At Ellen’s Age


    • kiwijenn
      Sep 12, 2011 @ 13:48:11

      No it doesn’t, thank goodness! But I really got the essence of that film, even if I didn’t like it. (But aren’t you glad I haven’t turned the apartment into an animal sanctuary!!)


  4. Raewyn
    Sep 12, 2011 @ 14:27:55

    Funny, Shelley & I were just talking about this the other day which led me to think further on.. where am I ‘most’ at home?…

    So far I have come to the conclusion that I am most at home with me. I am my home, my mind, my body and my soul. No one knows me like I know me.

    Location wise though, I was born in Kaikohe (, (,Kaikohe&gl=nz&ei=am1tTqioGcLGgAe946z6BQ&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=title&resnum=3&ved=0CDUQ8gEwAg) and when my Mum passed away I felt like I was going home, back to my childhood place, back to where my babies were born, back to my Dad and my siblings etc. But when I got there I didn’t recognise the place. I learnt that it wasn’t home anymore, that it was a town that had changed so much 27 years on. I had visited at other times but not really taking any notice if it felt like where I belonged. It just doesn’t feel like that now. Driving over the Hayward Hills or the Rimutaka’s will often have a feeling of coming home, but not always, not heart wrenching stuff.

    I’m a bit of a wanderer though. Move homes often, changes towns sometimes so perhaps that is why I feel at home with myself more than with a place. I am who I am and that starts within me, in my soul, in my ‘place’, maybe even my home.


    • kiwijenn
      Sep 12, 2011 @ 16:18:42

      I think that’s beautiful, Raewyn. And I hear you about why the idea of “you can never go home again” rings so true for so many. It’s something I fret about, which is SUCH a first world problem, right? 🙂

      Thanks so much for sharing this!


  5. seamunchkin
    Sep 19, 2011 @ 18:56:13

    Three cheers for public zombism!
    Seriously though, this is gorgeous and really made me smile. I too feel a bit displaced at the moment. Home has become 40-odd foot of boat that is in a different place every other day. I love it, it’s exhillarating, the people are wonderful but I am finding myself thinking of home more and more often. I miss my family and friends. At the same time though I am planning when I can do this again. I’m addicted now. It’s an odd feeling. I have also been thinking a lot about where home is. There is Wellington, which of all the places I have moved really feels like home, then Oamaru the pokey little town down south where I forged my journalism career and where I can’t seem to tear myself away from and then there’s ‘home’ home – poor old battered and bruised Christchurch, where I was born and where I lived most of my life and where my heart is. Maybe home is all four? who knows? Looking forward to catching up with you again though xx


    • kiwijenn
      Sep 21, 2011 @ 07:54:07

      I like that–the idea that home is all 4. I don’t know, maybe we have homes for different things and different reasons. It’s an odd feeling, though, isn’t it? Glad you’re still having a blast and that you’re ready for the next one. Can’t wait to see you guys when you get back!!


  6. Erinn
    Sep 22, 2011 @ 15:18:27


    I loved this entry! So easy to identify with (particularly as a Georgia girl displaced in the land of the long white cloud).

    I too have taken a ride from a stranger here… something I wouldn’t dream of doing back home! Funny you mentioned that.

    I’ve been contemplating writing a blog entry of my own on the topic of “home” and how its definition changed for me, as it seems it has for you.

    In one of my favo(u)rite movies, Sweet Home Alabama, Jake says to the ingenue played by Reese Witherspoon “You can’t have roots and wings Mel” and that’s something that has really resonated with me lately.

    In some ways he’s got a point, but in others he just doesn’t get it. Sometimes home means flying away, sometimes it means staying rooted and at other times you end up hovering in limbo inbetween… with one foot in each place. Like most things, it takes “living it” to really get a sense of these different perspectives.

    Bon voyage, Jenn! Please have some Zaxbys with Zax sauce or Chick-fli-A while you’re home. Say y’all without raising a single eyebrow and take in that sulphury Savannah air!

    Talk to you soon


    • kiwijenn
      Sep 22, 2011 @ 16:29:08

      I’ll definitely have some Zaxby’s! Thanks, Erinn, for such a lovely comment! You get where I’m coming from totally. Talk to you soon!


  7. Lux
    Sep 23, 2011 @ 08:20:39

    Ha Jenn – you are preaching to the choir with this one 😀 there is your home for now (for me currently england) and Im okay with that – I get people sick rather than homesick. But home-home will always be NZ and i do miss the NZ birdsong a lot. For me it’s a lot of little things like the other day I asked my workmates if the restaurant we were going to was BYO and that looked at me completely blankly and I had to explain the concept of BYO to them. I never ever thought I would have to explain BYO 😀 go figure


    • kiwijenn
      Sep 28, 2011 @ 15:20:17

      I know what you mean! It’s like when you go to tell a story, but you have to explain all of the essential elements, because it doesn’t make sense in it’s lost in translation-ness. Glad you have home where you need it and I hope you don’t get too people sick too often!


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