Missing Where You’re From

Do you miss it?

That is the question my fiancé and I kept asking each other about New York. We never raised it out of the blue. It was usually prompted by some other conversation we were already having. A memory we were reliving. A movie about the city. An article we both read. I’d ask her cautiously because I already knew the way she felt. I worried if I asked too often or in the wrong way I would make her sad. But still, I’d ask, hoping the gravity of the city had somehow dissipated.

In my heart I knew talking about it wouldn’t really change anything. It was like asking somebody if they were over a breakup. The only answer I ever believe is when somebody doesn’t realize they haven’t thought about it in some time. But where you live and where you come from is hard not to think about. It is built into the way we perceive the world and process new experiences. And I was so very worried about that, about comparing every element of where we are to where we were. I didn’t want where we came from to stunt our ability to build a new life.

I think about that whenever I go into my closet for a t-shirt. Half of my t-shirts are from the Queens clothing company my fiancé and I used to own. They are a constant reminder of not only our love of Queens but also my minor obsession with black t-shirts. Something much more functional in New York, than Phoenix. But it feels strange wearing t-shirts branded with a place I no longer live. It feels like I can’t let go. Like my friend who used to live in Scotland 10 years ago, but still talks about his “old flat” every time I see him.

My mind will move on even if my language hasn’t.

It took a few years after my parents moved to South Carolina to start referring to their new house as “going home for the holidays.” When talking about going to visit New York I would inadvertently refer to it as home. I would stop almost abruptly after that and feel silly. Awkward. What was home now? South Carolina, New York or Phoenix?

At this point, I’m not sure.

A challenge in this year of transition has been trying to constantly figure out how I feel, pin it down, pin it up for myself to see. I haven’t been able to and I’m sick of trying. I don’t even want to talk about it anymore; about how long we want to stay, or how long we’ll be away or if we’ll move somewhere else. Each instance feels like kicking my own leg out from under me.

Based on the language I have been using I went “home” this week for a business trip. People kept asking me if I was excited to go, and I wasn’t quite sure. After I arrived people kept asking me if I missed New York. For the first couple of days, I still wasn’t sure. I told people as much. I was waiting for longing, the missed romance of the city, or something that felt just more significant. Maybe if my fiancé had been with me, or I had spent more time with my family and friends I would have had those feelings. But several days into an already short trip, when people asked me if I missed New York I found myself saying, almost apologetically, “Not really.”

Maybe because I didn’t leave New York quickly. I started a couple of years ago, mentally anyway. This was followed by months and months of discussions about logistics, frustrations, confusion, and minor heartbreak, followed by a slow, three-week transition to the other side of the country where we began a new set of discussions about logistics, frustrations, confusion and minor heartbreak.

We are emotional creatures with strong attachments and a need to create meaning. The journey to do so is rarely easy.

By the time I left New York, I felt like my journey there was, in some ways, over. I didn’t leave feeling like it was too soon or I had so much left to do. I was ready for the next stage. Seven months in, it almost felt too soon to return. Like I didn’t have enough context or space. I was ready to leave but maybe I wasn’t ready to return. Taking the train, walking the streets, breathing the air again was, of course, familiar, but almost a bit foreign. I did not feel the same ownership I did when I left. Which, if I’m looking too much into it, is probably because it was never mine, to begin with.

Yes. I miss New York. But not as much as I thought. And I hope that is because I got everything I wanted out of my time there.

It’s about the most I can hope for any place my life takes me.

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