Lately I’ve been trying to put into words what it feels like to want to live everywhere I love at once –
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I want to wake up in New York. I want to be young in a city of neon and giants. I want to catch a subway into Brooklyn and I want to get lost somewhere in between the bodegas and dive bars.
I want to wake up in Paris. I want to buy flowers and brie on a hillside under the shadow of a windmill and I want to eat macarons for breakfast with my feet dangling over the Seine.
I want to wake up in Nashville. I want to listen to Johnnie and Willie and Hank on vinyl and I want to dance in a pair of red leather boots with a bourbon in my hand.
I want to wake up in Dublin. I want to stroll down the canals with the swans and the cobblestone lanes with the buskers. I want to down pints of Guinness with the old men in the pub and hear their stories of the good old days in a dirty old town.
I want to wake up in Barcelona. I want to sip sangria while the waves nip my toes and I want to wear long skirts and dance all night long.
I want to wake up in Edinburgh. I want to sip Scotch in the hills of the highlands. I want to wander through the cobbled closes and I want to read Burns under the shadow of a castle on a hill.
I want to wake up in Chicago. I want to hear the electric hum of the El passing over the Loop or the effervescent noise of subway jazz musicians and baseball fans. I want to feel the warm summer breeze in my hair as I cruise along the lakeshore drive in the back seat of a cab in the early hours of the morning, buzzing on craft beer and infinite youth.
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You know the feeling?
I do. I have never been the kind of person to relate to people who want to put roots down somewhere. The kind of people with a five year plan that outlines them buying a home with a good school district and putting up a white picket fence. Those kind of people fascinate me, because the notion of making one place your home forever seems romantic and natural and isn’t that the good old American dream? But I am not like those kind of people. Give a city a year or so and I start to get restless. My feet start itching to go somewhere new.
I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong or right with either lifestyle. They’re just different and different keeps the world interesting. But I do think that one has been normalized so that the other has become a foreign notion. Putting down roots is what you’re supposed to do. Which is why it makes it so hard to explain to people why I can’t do that. I don’t ever see myself taking out a mortgage on a home. How could I possibly choose one place to live forever? Asking me to choose one city from all the ones that I love is like asking a scholar to choose only one book to read for the rest of his life. It’s impossible.
Perhaps it’s that I’m addicted to new beginnings. I like the freedom of a clean slate. The promise that I could be anyone I want to be in a city where no one knows my name. Or maybe it’s because I’m an interminable student. I seek out new places to learn their quirks and cultures and traditions, and then I seek out another. Maybe I’m just easily distracted.
I live abroad. And the locals perpetually ask me why I am here. But don’t you miss home? Of course I do. I miss all of my homes. The cities that have left their marks on my soul. I left Chicago for the chance to explore the great capitals of Europe. Moving here has been my dream since before I can remember, to the point where I can never seem to find the right words when people ask why I chose to move so far away. This was just always going to be a part of my life. I’d never envisioned it going any other way. But living in Dublin and now Glasgow, I sometimes wake up missing the windy city, with a strange sense of guilt. But I’ve realized that if I moved back, I would surely wake with the same longing to return to the other homes I had made around the world. That’s the trouble. When you fall in love with places rather than things, you’ll always be haunted by the nostalgia of what it felt like to know that place like the back of your hand. You leave your heart scattered.
Right now I am sitting on a precipice in my life. A metaphorical fork in the road. I can’t see into the foreseeable future. I don’t know where I am going to be in a few months. If I will stay where I am or find my way back to an old home or if I will be starting over somewhere new again altogether. It’s not the most comfortable of feelings. I feel untethered. And I do have my doubts. I haven’t exactly chosen a life that fits the mold. The truth is, restlessness sounds romantic but I can’t help but wonder if it’s only because I haven’t found anywhere I feel I belong. But this isn’t the first time I’ve been at this fork, not able to see what’s down the road. I doubt it will be my last. This is just who I am.
And I think how fortunate I am to have friends all over the world. And how incredible it is to witness different cultures flourish in a world that’s a lot smaller than you’d think. And I’m grateful for my restlessness, because I am learning archaeology and art and architecture and anthropology and sociology and psychology from the places I call home.
Maybe I can’t put it into words. Maybe those people – the ones who want to settle down – will never understand. That’s fine. Because as long as they are fulfilled in their life, I am fulfilled in mine. I am not running away, nor am I missing out. I am just hopelessly indecisive, splitting my time between the places that I love. Because home is a concept, not a singular place. And I make a home in every place I go.