“Home is here and also there”

“Home is here and also there”

Hello! If you’ve been following Marginalia, you probably noticed there’s a new face next to this post. I’m Steph, the new Graduate Student Ambassador for Columbia College Chicago’s Creative Nonfiction MFA program. Nice to meet you!

Last week, my fiancée and I made the trek from our home in Orlando to come to Chicago. Two days, two people, two cats, and one 16-foot moving truck on a mini-survey of the Southeastern United States, an exploration of part of the Midwest, and we were here, unloading our truck in a narrow brick alley on a Monday morning.

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Two weeks ago, we said goodbye to many of our friends for the last time. I packed and cleaned and packed some more. I tearfully parted with many books that I couldn’t justify keeping, I reassessed my wardrobe for a colder climate, and hoped that our apartment would have room for it all since we were downsizing to a studio.

One week later, we are settled into our new apartment. The boxes are unpacked and thrown out. Pictures are being hung, and we are getting used to not having air conditioning for the first time ever.

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It’s small, it’s hot, but it’s beginning to feel like home.

As I said goodbye to Florida, I found myself both eager and hesitant to leave. I’ve left and returned twice since coming to Orlando from Cleveland in 2004. As a teenager, I hesitantly settled into the alien landscape of heat, humidity, constant (sometimes blinding) sunshine, strange wildlife, and lack of seasons, but it never really felt like home. I did everything I could to get out of Florida when I was younger, and I succeeded, but in the end, I came back.

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“Home is here and also there, I belong here and also I don’t, home is this country and also that one and I am always somewhere in between.” (Emily St. John Mandel – “Motherless Tacoma: On Eric Barnes’s Something Pretty, Something Beautiful”)

I read this quote a couple months ago, around the same time I began mentally preparing for my move, and it’s stuck with me. Home is so impermanent in a tangible sense, but the places we call and have called home have significant mental staying power that far exceeds the physical lifespans of those locations.

Even though I lived in Chicago before, the home I am creating is new and different. Each time I’ve come back, both the city and I have changed.  As I leave behind one adopted homeland, I take on a new one and reunite with an old friend.