I was listening to a Sarah McLachlan song the other day – “World on Fire.” Do you know it? Do you know that line, “Hearts break, hearts bend, love still hurts”? I’m wondering about this as it applies to my decision to stay home after graduation. I moved back, back to familiar people and places, back to what feels like an older self. I feel out of place, bent out of shape. And I look at the people who traveled, who journeyed across oceans or continents, who sit in university classes and write theses, who work in labs or in non-profits on K St or who teach for America… and I stayed here. Why does it hurt?
Dear Homeward Bound,
Isn’t it funny how easily envious we are? If we are dating, we are jealous for unattached freedom. If we are single, we pine over red wine for a relationship. When we are in school all we think is, “get me OUT” and when we are at work all we think is, “Remember that awesome paper I got to write about hermeneutics?” (Okay, not everyone says that).
And when we return home, to our old rooms, our rickety bookcases, our messy kitchens, all the things we already know, we can think of nothing else but moving away. We plan elaborate apartments furnished by Anthropologie. We imagine long walks through Lincoln Park, along the Seine with fresh bread, in London, in Portugal. We tell ourselves there we’d find the self we’re longing to be: fun and outgoing, breezy and yet thoughtful, maybe with a cool but understated piercing to differentiate the new season of our life and almost certainly with a whole new outlook on life.
Ironic, love, isn’t it, that the people who moved far away feel almost the same way. We imagine getting a Starbucks in the neighborhood we know, high-fiving the barista. We imagine using our native currency/language/music tastes. We imagine walking through the city knowing exactly where the used poetry bookshop is. We imagine ourselves, confident in the familiarity of things, on a long run around the pond that looks impossibly effortless. We’re probably wearing the cutest possible running outfit in said effortless run.
We are easily jealous of the lives and gifts we don’t have. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: these things can always be your becoming. It matters tremendously that you are, as you say, “homeward bound” – part of your becoming gets to be grappling with the older self, the one you think you’ve left behind. Your becoming doesn’t involve a new presentation or a new start in a strange place. Your becoming involves a mud pit wrestling match with the expectations of who you are and what you do. Most of these are your expectations, sweet heart – and it’ll be a tough fight. But your becoming involves this tough fight.
You’ve got a lovely, pining letter here. Hearts do break and bend, love does hurt. It will do that next door to you and 10,000 miles away and inside you. You know what that song is really about, though, right?
World’s on fire, it’s more than I can handle, tap into the water, try to bring my share. I try to bring more, more than I can handle, bring it to the table, bring what I am able…
Bring more than you can handle. Bring your share. Bring what you are able. The point of singing this isn’t to throw a pity party that you’re back in your old neighborhood and others are somewhere else. The point of singing this isn’t to collapse because sometimes we suck and are beautiful and stupid and other people are so very mysterious and we want things we can’t have and we’re restless and… and… and…
Give to the table in front of you more than you are able. This is nothing less than your great task. You are homeward bound. Bound there, giving your whole heart, I think, you will be amazed at what you become.