I watch the sun define over the gray clouds on the horizon. From the airplane, its nearly surrealearth and sky one blur of colorgrey, gold, pink, blue, a hint of yellow-brown. Lately, Ive been on airplanes probably more than I should, traveling back and forth from the town I grew up in, the place my sister lives, the city I went to college, and where I live now.
Sometimes I feel like Im always in motion, spreading myself between people and places I love. Trying, so desperately, to understand the connections I have between each place and my heart, between the person I am in each city, each town, and each relationship Ive kept and left behind.
Its been a year since Ive left the Midwestwhat has always been my home. Its been a year since I assembled my life and loaded it into a uhaul truck, hitched my little car to the trailer, and watched the town where I grew up fade in the rearview mirror.
Its been a year since I said my goodbyes, since I walked down the gravel tracks in my college township, since I hugged one of my best friends, since I unpacked my entire existence in a town two thousand miles from what I used to call home.
Thats what I call it: the feeling of not really knowing where you fit. When youre tied to a place youve always known but suddenly feel more comfy somewhere new. When youre connected to more than one location, considering both of them where you belong .
Its always strange when I committee a plane, when I feel the mechanical body lift underneath my own, when I watch the houses and vehicles and barges and people suddenly become tinges, when I get that giddy feeling of heading somewhere I used to belong.
Thats such a strange emotionreturning back to the place youve left, trying to make sense of where you fit. You never know whats waiting for you at that airport. You never know what to expect when you land.
As humans, were always moving, always shifting, always claiming new places and spaces as ours. We find ways to fit. We make new lives for ourselves based on circumstance or people, on relationships or connections or feeling or desperation.
And suddenly where we were doesnt seem to hurt as much when we think about it. Abruptly were not swallowing clumps in our throat when we think of home. Abruptly home is transversal, malleable, dependenton who and where we are .
We leave our hometowns for school. We take undertakings that lead us to new soil. We follow people and passions. We leave our frets behind and shamelessly seek change.
And we generate homes in the person or persons we satisfy and love, in the places we settle, in the locations where we decide, yes, this is where I belong now.
Isnt that beautiful? But scary too. Scary because as we leave where weve been, as we leave what we know, theres a bittersweet savour in our mouths.
Because when we return, its no longer home.
Its no longer smellings and feelings and memories we recognize.
Our old homes are changed, paused, frozen in time with the last kiss we shared, the last words we let slip from our lips, the last photograph we snapped, the last goodbyes .
And in some ways, these places, moments, slivers of time are no longer home. Not anymore.
I watch the sun situated, watch the clouds float in and out of focus, disclosing blinking city sunlights below. Its the hour between sunset and darkness, where the sky hasnt yet been swallowed by night.
I imagine my mother, getting ready to head to the airport to pick me up, or my best friend, planning her wedding in the city Ill travel to next. I think of my sister, in another state, settling into her new life, her new home away from me. I think of my little apartment, my little hang plant I dedicated to my neighbour to water while Im gone
Is there a distinct differencethe past home, the new homeor will I always feel like these two parts of the world are mine ?
Im not sure this is right I fit. Im not sure if I should hold onto the pieces of my past, the memories of the town I grew up, forever rooting myself to Midwest soil. Im not sure if I should leave those parts of myself concealed, only excavates up when Im returning back and the rest of the time claiming a new city, new identity.
And what about now: Am I returning back home or simply visiting the place I used to live? Will my old homes eternally become members of me, defining my path, my future? Or is where I live currently the only place that will, that should, write my tale?
Not inevitably fitting into one place. Not necessarily knowing where to belong. A sense of got lost, caught between to physical places, between two ways of reasoning, between two ways of lovingwhere youve been and where you are.
I have homes in people, in memories, in towns, in coming back, in starting new.
Maybe there is no set answer to where I belong. Maybe none of us truly know, or have one defined place that forever bides the same in our minds and hearts. Maybe its not about trying to figure out where I should be or belong.
Maybe my heart is free, making ties each time I leave, and each time I return.
Marisa Donnelly is a poet and author of the book,, available here.
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