As I prepped to go back to school this week, I thought a lot about home. But with my life, that isn’t as simple as “I am going from home to university,”
Because I didn’t leave home on Saturday night. I left where my parents live; right now, they live in Kuala Lumpur. In three years, they will live somewhere else.
So you might ask: where is home for you, Grace?
That’s the million dollar question.
And I probably won’t answer it in this blog post, the truth is I will probably spend many years trying to answer that question; I have a great deal of my identity wrapped up in not having a home.
I like the question what is your passport country, which might sound funny but it is actually a decent way to ask people in international circles where they’re from.
My passport country is the United States of America.
For most people this is easy – home is where you’re from.
“Grace, where are you from?”
“America,” when I’m overseas.
“Maryland” or “D.C.” when I’m in America.
But even where are you from is different from where is home.
Where is home.
“Let’s go home,” I say at the mall in Kuala Lumpur – referring to my parent’s house.
“Let’s go home,” I suggest when visiting family in northwest Ohio – referring to my aunt’s house.
“Let’s go home,” I yawn after dinner at university – referring to my dormitory.
Is home with my mom’s family in Ohio? With my dad’s family in southern Maryland? That same town in southern Maryland where I spent eight or nine years of my life (at different intervals.) Eight or nine years in Bethesda, Maryland. That’s the longest I’ve spent anywhere. So that’s home.
That’s home as far as in-state tuition would bother to check. But my driver’s permit is from Ohio, I am registered to vote in Ohio. I currently live in Ohio. So that’s home.
But Ohio does not feel like home, not even close.
I was born in Paraguay, but that is not home.
Some of my first memories are of Sri Lanka, but that is not home.
I started to become my own person in middle school, in Malaysia. But that is not home.
I graduated high school in Romania, but that is not home.
My passport country is the United States of America. I am an American citizen, my phone number is American, I vote in America, drive in America, study in America, live in America. I am from America.
But is America my home?
I’ve superiorly rattled off the: “I’m a global citizen first and American citizen second,” line often enough, but we all kind of know being a global citizen doesn’t mean shit. Yet, I don’t feel a huge obligation to America. Our current administration doesn’t help, but that aside I’m not sure that I feel American in the way that the world has branded it onto me.
Hiraeth is a Welsh word without an English translation. It means yearning, longing, nostalgia. It means missing, it means wanting a place that cannot be; it means homesickness for a home which has never existed; it means needing the past again, it means grief and loss for a home that is more than just a house or a physical place of being.
“Where is home, Grace?”
“Ehh … Maryland, I guess.”
That fits well enough, serves its purpose.
The more troubling question might be: will I ever feel that I have a home? And if I do, am I sure that is what I want?
-Grace T, January 2018