Most people I know are transplants from somewhere else. It doesn’t matter what brought us to the city. College. A job. Somebody we loved. A dream. A hope. Boredom, restlessness. The fact that whatever we were searching for wasn’t in the place we left. Whatever the reason, we’re not there anymore, and we’re here now. Often, we’re here alone. Often, only a phone number with a familiar area code connects us with our childhood homes. We create new homes of roommates and friends, though it’s safe to argue that you often can’t entirely replace one with the other. You can grow new roots, but that doesn’t change the fact that you began from somewhere else, and replanted here. And everyone always wants to know where somewhere else was.
I’m often posed the question of how frequently I “go back home.” I don’t go often. People ask if I miss it, if it’s hard for me, if I feel homesick, if I wish I could go home. I feel like a bad person when I say I don’t. Should I?
At first, when I moved to New York from Los Angeles — propelled by a numbing combination of school, a dream, the desire to be an Adult On Her Own, and the simple logistics of moving as far away from my family as I could possibly manage — I was homesick all of the time. I didn’t anticipate it, although I should have. Every time I’d traveled without my parents for an extended amount of time, I’d wanted desperately to go back home before the trip was over. I knew home, and home was comforting. The city was scary and new and as a newly eighteen year old kid, I’d never had to budget my money or cook for myself, and now I was suddenly an adult. It seemed childish to curl up and cry for mommy, since I had suddenly been presented with all of the freedom in the world, but that was just what I wanted to do.
Over time, the feeling diminished. I realized I could survive on my own, as most people can. I established a life for myself, I found a job, I liked my freedom. I did not go home very often because I could not afford to. I couldn’t afford a plane ticket, and even if I could, I couldn’t afford taking time off of work. When I finally did go home, because my parents graciously paid for my trip, I realized my life simply wasn’t back there anymore.
The next summer, I stayed in the city. I did not go home. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been back in Los Angeles in the five years I’ve lived in New York City. Two Christmases, my siblings’ high school graduation. I don’t know when I’ll be back to visit my family again. It doesn’t really bother me.
Every so often, a friend will mention to me that they’re headed back home, because that is what people do when they’ve got breaks from school or simply did not move far enough away to validate long absences. But didn’t you just go home last weekend, I’ll wonder. Maybe their priorities are different than mine are. Maybe they never wanted to fly far from the nest. Maybe I’m emotionally stunted somehow. Maybe I should want to go home. Maybe I ought to go home. Sometimes, my overactive imagination gets the better of me and I think, maybe they’ll die and I’ll never have gotten the chance to say good bye. Maybe I should make more of an effort to see them.
Maybe I should care more about whether or not I see my family this year. It doesn’t matter to me either way.
Are we supposed to always want to go home periodically? For the holidays, for a break, to catch up with our family. Phones and Skype and Facebook serve that purpose well, and though science has proven that technology takes a lot of the personal aspect out of human interaction, it sure makes it easier to keep up with somebody’s life even though they’re on the other side of the country. What if we simply don’t want to go home?
Do birds go back to the nests in which they’re born? Not after building their own nests, I imagine. But they survive on a different code than we do, and we had to build planes to help us fly. They are built for it. Before planes, it was a much more difficult task to move away. Eventually, it also becomes a difficult task to want to go back home, because what waits for you there? An escape from the life you now live? This — here — is the present. Who knows where the future might be? Who knows what an individual person’s priorities are, and who’s to say whether they’re right or wrong? It is not a sign of defeat to want to revisit home, to be a child again, to be cared for by parents and friends if you’re so lucky to still have them. Nor is it a mark of insensitivity or ungratefulness if you can’t, or don’t want to go home.
Maybe you’ve rebuilt a nest already, and you’re already home.