Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The grass is greener where it rains
“How soon country people forget. When they fall in love with a city it is forever, and it is like forever. As though there never was a time when they didn’t love it. The minute they arrive at the train station or get off the ferry and glimpse the wide streets and the wasteful lamps lighting them, they know they are born for it. There, in a city, they are not so much new as themselves: their stronger, riskier selves.” - Toni Morrison
When I moved to
I never felt like I belonged in my hometown;
So when I turned 18, I left. And I have been leaving ever since. I transferred colleges three times, took summer road trips and jobs in other states, and when I was done with college I jumped at the opportunity to move to
Of all of my adventures, my time in
While I was gone, life wasn’t just changing for me. The people that I left behind went on living their lives; relationships formed, babies were born and a distance of more than just miles grew between me and some of the people I had know for years.
My mother, who had lived alone since I left home at 18, sold the house and moved to a different city with her boyfriend, whom I had only met twice. She told me one summer afternoon on the phone from across the ocean, a few weeks before the move. I was devastated; it felt like I had lost a member of my family.
The thing about leaving is that you assume there is always the option of coming back, after all that’s why it’s called “going home.” What happens though when life decides not to play by your rules, when you move and the life you left moves on?
I would have never imagined that I could miss that home that I once hated so much. That I would find myself mourning it and having dreams about it. I didn’t think I needed to say goodbye until I didn’t get the chance.
I got the wish that had as a teenager- I got out- what I didn’t count on was that once I left I couldn’t go back again. I assumed that life in that town never changed- for the 18 years I lived in that house, it seemed as if it never would. Even though I didn’t want the place anymore I wanted it to exist just in case I ever needed it again. It is an arrogance that only the selfishness of youth can afford.
Which is exactly what I was, exactly what I am: selfish. Which isn’t always a bad thing. Traveling all over the world, moving to
My mother has always been the strongest, bravest, most independent woman I have known. Hers was the strength of sacrifice, the strength to sacrifice every part of her life to give her two children a home, a life, love and the courage to be their own people. She gave the majority of her life to us, working and going to college for second degree to provide us with enough to get by. Sacrificing nearly two decades of a social life so we would have as much consistency and stability as she could provide. She taught me pride, she taught me hard work, and she taught me courage to do the things that the other women in my family never got the chance to do.
Ours are different kinds of strength however, mine has always been more selfish. My strength has been the strength to build and endure change, as much as I have feared change my whole life I have embraced it and built my life around it.
My mother made me strong enough to leave the home that she built for us and once I had moved on she finally took her chance to leave it too. Something I didn’t consider was that all those years that I dreamed of getting out, she was too. That home held my childhood; it held memories from most of the years of my life. But it also held a lot of pain and struggle, things that I was all too eager to escape when I first left at 18. The same things that several years later my mother finally got the chance to leave, when her son had a home and family of his own and her daughter was in
I have been afraid that I wouldn’t be able to forgive my mother for selling my childhood home, for getting married, for thinking of herself first. But when I look at it objectively the things that I am mad at her for are the exact things that she gave me the courage to do myself.
I have spent most of my life dreaming of other horizons and most of my adulthood chasing those horizons trying to make myself happy. I shouldn’t begrudge my mother because she got there before me. After all, she had a head start.
Some people believe that who you are is constantly changing- that the person you are at 12 is not the person you are at 24 or 48. It is the one undeniable law of nature- change- everything, everyone all the time is constantly in flux. I, however, have always been a firm believer that some things last- no matter what you do. Beyond mere stubbornness, I think that some things get defined by the change that they endure and that after it- the new them that emerges, is the one that persists. If for no other reason than that the change was so great that no other change in life can alter it.
Growing up in Plainwell may have defined how I thought of myself and given me the eyes that I looked at the world with. But leaving it, and years later losing it, has made me into the person that I am, the person that I will always be, no matter where I go.
Sometimes though you have to travel a very long way to see where you come from, and sometimes you realize that the journey “back home” isn’t as simple as you thought.
It seems strange that I felt so completely at home in a place so foreign, yet at the same time could feel such a gaping whole for a place that I spent so long trying to leave. I had fallen head over heels in love with
Wherever I go, there I am. Me, the little girl from the small Midwestern town, but at the same time the brave, well traveled woman that she grew into. I may never fully know who I am, but perhaps we aren’t met to.
Leaving home, losing home and forging to make a new home, I have learned that I am don’t have to be defined by the place I grew up. Maybe you can never go home again, but maybe that’s for the best. Perhaps life is met to be about finding a place that you can make into a home. When that day comes for me- when I master the art of staying in one place- be it
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
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Thursday, October 1, 2009
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that it’s 2009, not because I don’t feel old enough to yet be this old, or because we are still living in a future woefully devoid of hover crafts, but because of the appalling discussions that take place by so-called intelligent forward thinking people whenever there’s a public case of rape or domestic abuse.
From the common cry of faking or “asking for it” or trying to make money whenever someone notable is accused of rape or assault, to the disgusting initial defense of Chris Brown, to most recently the concept of rape the doesn’t “count” as rape.
In the last week alone there have been two more cases of not calling a spade a spade, or in the case of John Phillips and Roman Polanski, calling a rapist a rapist.
An adult having sex with a 13-year-old is rape. An adult having sex with a drugged and drunk 13-year-old is rape. Period. End of Story. There should be no discussion over who was in the house, what was said by whom, and certainly none over what a great director they are. Even Whoopi (say it ain’t so!) is using made up terms like “rape-rape”, and Debra Tate saying “it was rape, but it wasn’t rape.” The fact that Polanski has still been able to make movies and live in relative freedom for the past 30 plus years, is upsurd, the fact that so many people agreed to work with him, defend him.
The judicial system already puts the burden of proof on the victim too many times and lets the rapists and abusers get off with small or often nonexistent sentences. What’s rarely considered is how damaging something like rape and abuse is to a person, how it’s something that can ruin a life, even after years, even after you “get over it.” Adding on a chorus of voices saying “oh, well it wasn’t really rape” is damaging not only to those who have lived through it, but those in the future who will question themselves if they are so unfortunate as to have something like this happen to them.