Monday, January 4, 2010

Going Home Again

I've been enjoying vacation these past weeks in my hometown in Indiana. I will say, though, that the longer I've lived away from home, the more striking it is to return. There are lovely things, like spending quality time with family and friends; poignant things, like visiting favorite childhood places; and familiar-yet-surprising things, like noticing more than ever how often I end up being the only person of color in a shop or restaurant.

I wasn't always aware of the homogeny of my surroundings. As a kid, it was pretty much all I knew, and I didn't give it a second thought. I never felt as severely "different" in public as I must have appeared. Now that I'm seeing the place through new eyes, I can't help but wonder what kind of effect growing up there actually had on me.

When I'm visiting home, people often ask if I like New York, which is an easy "Yes." But sometimes they ask more specifically what I like about New York. No offense to the die hard New Yorkers among us, but I've never quite been able to put my finger on it. I usually mumble something about "diversity" and "opportunities," knowing that somewhere in there is the actual truth.

I can give or take most things about my new hometown, NYC, but I like looking around and seeing all shades of brown faces. I never wanted it to be that simple, but I think that's what it comes down to for me. Not feeling so alone in a crowd, or like a sore thumb sticking out, trying not to bump anything. Small things in small moments that add up to something bigger.

I used to think the saying “you can’t go home again” meant that something about your home changed while you weren’t looking. Once you step outside of a place, your relationship to it is different. Forever. Home may not have changed, but I have.

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