A colleague and I gave a lunchtime presentation in Emporia today. As I was driving north on I-95, I came to the outskirts of downtown Richmond. A wave of nostalgia hit as I viewed the panorama: tall buildings, the James River and the roof of the train station. The nostalgia was a longing for my old city - Pittsburgh - from where I moved in 1989. I would drive through the tunnels approaching downtown Pittsburgh and be hit with light shimmering on the water, sky-scrapers of every conceivable height and shape and I would know I was home.
But Pittsburgh hasn’t been my home for more than 20 years. Oddly enough, I’ve never felt quite at home here either. For me, it’s been a “fish out of water” syndrome. I’ve graduated from college here, had one of my daughters here, owned homes here, have a church family, a stellar career and the best group of friends a girl could ever dream of having.
But rounding that curve and meeting the skyline on I-95 today, I took in the beauty of Richmond, the history and the uniqueness and I love it. It’s just not home. Perhaps it was moving here from the north and never fully being able to capture that southern charm and the mannerisms that girls are brought up with in the south. Maybe I never really learned the culture. Maybe it is the fact that we left Richmond to live in Charlottesville at the end of the 1990s for a few years. Possibly it is something that one needs to be born with. Whatever the reasons, I still have a vague unease of “transition” about me. One that lingers, never fully lets go.
I admire people who can make a home anywhere. I have cousins who moved from Kentucky to the United Arab Emirates and now live in Qatar. They spend summers in the U.S. and seem to easily transition from one part of the world to another with barely a moment of jetlag. My friend Dan retired from his job and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. He has lived all over Asia for months and then picked up and moved to Alaska. Oh, by the way, Dan’s not even 30! How cool that they can just bid adieu to what they know and take off for what they don’t…and be okay.
So as I navigated the highway today, I decided I should forget the past and where I came from and focus on the future and where I’m headed. A future where I can live in the city of my dreams - one that welcomes me with open arms every time I visit, one where I get so excited when I think of living there that my heart actually flutters. Ex-patriot Gertrude Stein said of the city she loved "America is my country, but Paris is my home." And one day, I am sure that I will make the city of my dreams my home as well. That city is New York. I doubt I will experience any unease as I was born to be a New Yorker. I knew it the moment I stepped off the plane to visit for the first time. I knew it the day I successfully navigated the subway. I knew it when my brother (a New Yorker himself) joked that I can’t find the bread machine in my kitchen but I could find a pair of shoes in Time Square at 8:00 on a Saturday night - blindfolded. I know that, in the next phase of my life, I am destined to live there. As the saying goes - there’s no place like home. I believe that. I just have to find mine.