On June 20th, 2014, six weeks before moving from KC to Vienna, I posted the following on my facebook…
“Lessons in Relativity:
Six weeks ago was May 9th, Mother’s Day, and I don’t even remember what else I did because six weeks was a long time ago.
Six weeks from today I get on a 20-hr flight, my visa expires, and I leave the country that I’ve called home for the past 13 years.
I can’t figure out if six weeks is a long time or a short time… I guess six weeks is whatever you want it to be.”
One of my best friends made the following comment: “Deep bro. Right in the feels”
Almost a year later, I am sitting at the airport about to go back and visit Kansas for two months. Suddenly, I have a serious case of precisely that: “the feels.”
This essay is all about ‘the feels’. It’s about the feels that we get when we are leaving or heading home. On my way to the airport, I found myself thinking (as usual). I was thinking about why I felt depressed and excited at the same time. Naturally, I did what I always do and I asked myself one question: Do you feel like you are going home? The answer was “Well, Yes and No.”
Although the title was inspired by a Linkin Park song, this whole thing is practically brought to you courtesy of Disney. The truth is that we have all known this stuff [that I’m about to type] ever since we were little, we just don’t think about it enough. On my way to the airport, I was listening to my iPod as a distraction, but I still found myself deep inside my own head. I was searching for the answer to my question, and to many others…
Am I really going home or am I leaving home? Why does it feel like I’m leaving home when I’m supposed to be heading there? How can I feel so excited to go home to my family and yet so depressed about leaving a place where I’m self-conscious about talking to strangers? Am I confused about where home is?
I’d completely forgotten that I left my iPod on the Soundtrack Genre when suddenly I heard some lyrics that snapped me out of dreamworld and brought me back to reality.
“You think you own whatever land you land on. The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim. But I know every rock and tree and creature, has a life, has a spirit, has a name. You think the only people who are people, are the people who look and think like you. But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.”
Ironically, this brought me to reality and equally sent me into the philosophical lunacy that my mind loves to annoy me with. It gave me the answer to all my realities while sending me into dreamlike imaginations. It reminded me why I feel at home in so many places. I don’t pretend to own any land or claim that I belong there. I look at geographic locations as mere points of reference, not as something that belongs to me or that I belong to. My people and I don’t belong to a land and it doesn’t belong to us. In true reality, that’s impossible. We are not like dogs who pee on a territory to claim it as their own, and we’re not slaves who are chained to a piece of land. That’s why I can’t be Mexican or American or whatever. “My people” are not necessarily in Kansas or Vienna. They are free to go where they wish and do as they please. And in fact they do. Currently, my people are also in Mexico, the Netherlands, India, and god knows where else. In a sense, the reason why we are currently separated is because my people are also with their people.
So where do I draw the line between my people and their people? When a friend goes to see her or his best friend, or their family… are those people also my people? In sense they have to be. It would be impossible for me to claim that my loved ones are my people, but their loved ones aren’t. That’s why these lyrics impacted me so much. Most of my best friends and family don’t even look like me. And god have mercy on them if they think like me (I would truly feel their pain on that one). So all I can say about my people is that they are just that: people. I could not come up with a single generalization to describe them. Not one. They only thing that they all have in common is me, and at one point or another they were all strangers to me. The more I learned from them, the more I learned about myself, and the more I realized that there are things I never knew that I never knew. Even my parents were strangers to me when I was born. But they made the
naive decision to put up with me for 25 years (and that’s something I myself have barely been able to manage). So after living in Kansas for 13 years and being gone for 11 months, I’m finally going back to the people who chose to be in my life for so many years. I’m going to see my parents. I’m going to see my grandma, my brother, my closest friends… I’m going to see to see all the people and places that are familiar to me and who never wanted me to leave in the first place. By all definitions of the term, I’m going home.
And yet that’s simply not true. There’s a reason why it doesn’t feel like I’m going home.
As if the previous revelation wasn’t enough, I remembered another song that I love and that I quoted on my Facebook some years ago:
“I have often dreamed
Of a far off place
Where a Hero’s Welcome
Will be Waiting for me.
Where the crowds will cheer
When they see my face
And a voice keeps saying
This is where I’m meant to be.”
Right now, as I’m sitting here, anyone can see that my dream is coming true. I’m going to a far off place where the people will welcome me as if I had actually done anything with my life (I haven’t). We will cheer and get emotional when we see each other’s faces and a voice (be it inside or outside) will tell me: welcome home, this is where you are meant to be.
But this song reminded me why I never really feel at home anywhere. It seems like somehow the place where I currently am is never good enough. I’m always dreaming of a better place. A place far away that I have never been to or perhaps even heard of. A place where I’m immediately welcome as a hero because somehow everyone knows me. A place where people love me for who I am and they want me to stay because I am meant to be there and nowhere else. It should be no surprise that this is also something I have thought about extensively (because: Ed) and I have an idea about what it is. In a sense, I am looking for love at first sight because I am looking for a place where strangers immediately know who I am and love me for it. I am looking for someone who will say “this is where you’re meant to be” as soon as I arrive. It might sound crazy and unrealistic, but that’s why it’s a dream. And it’s worth pursuing. What’s the point in life if we are willing to give up on our dreams? That’s why I refuse to “settle”.
So home will depend on the people, which means that the real question is: am I going to “my people” or am I leaving them? I already discussed who my people are, which seems to make the answer more complicated but in fact it’s simple. Many people hate cliches because they are over-used or they express an obvious truth, but that’s the point: there’s at least some truth behind them. That’s why when I say “home is where the heart is” you know exactly what I mean. I began by asking myself: Do you feel like you’re going home? But the answer was “Well, yes and no.” Then I tried to define where home was only to find out that home depends on who my people are and where they are located. So if home is truly where the heart is, then ultimately where is my heart? Well, the paradox is that I only have one heart but it is everywhere, and all my loved ones will understand when I say this to/about them: You’ll Be In My Heart and My Heart Will Go On.
Every night in my dreams, I see you I feel you. That is how I know you go on. Far across the distance and spaces between us, you have come to show you go on… I know we’re different but deep inside us, we’re not that different at all. You’ll be in my heart from this day on, now and forever more.
The question about whether I am currently going home or leaving home is irrelevant because I am always both. I am always right at home and infinitely far away from home. Somehow time and space are irrelevant to this question and that was what I meant when I mentioned relativity a year ago. The bond between my loved ones and I is not really affected by where we are or what time it is, it’s only our experience of it that changes. That’s why I was as torn about leaving then as I am now and that’s why the following lyrics from the songs I mentioned make perfect sense even if they use different words:
When destiny calls you, you must be strong. I may not be with you, but you’ve got to hold on.
You’re here, there’s nothing I fear, and I know that my heart will go on. We’ll stay forever this way, you are safe in my heart and my heart will go on and on.
Whether you want to talk about “holding on” or “going on” it seems that the difference between staying and going is smaller than it seems. Maybe there’s no difference. Maybe the best way to summarize it all is by following “home is where the heart is” with yet another cliche: “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.”… But is anything really ever “gone”?
Not really. Only if you let go. All of these lyrics helped me realize that in the end the best way to define home is by listening to the voice that keeps saying “this is where you’re meant to be, right now.”