“What do you miss most about home?” he asked me.
I paused. How to answer that this time? I often feel like a politician when I play the “get to know you” game of life.
“I miss the people,” I started. “And I think it’s beautiful there. And I’m partial to the way everyone drives in California.”
The question pin balled through my mind: What, now in 2016, now that I’ve found a new home that I’ve started to love and assimilate into, do I miss about my old home?
Then I piped up again with an addendum that surprised myself. “That’s most of what I miss. I’m really content in Wichita.”
It was the first time that someone asked something about “home” and my first inclination had honestly been, “wait, do you mean Wichita? Or California?” and in the split second of realizing the context realized they must mean California. It was the first time that I knew that it had really sunk in. That Wichita is home, not in theory or in choice, but in reflex.
But then, as the question continued to prod me, I added one last honest bit.
“I guess I miss being in a place where everyone knows me so well. There’s comfort in going around town and running into people who have known me since I was a child. For the good and the bad, the happy and the sad. That’s priceless to me.”
Later in the day I was sitting next to one of my old roommates and best friends for years and as I saw some really sad news about someone I cared about from home, all I had to say was “look.” and she took my phone, read the news, and knew exactly who those people were to me and what the news meant. I didn’t have to explain. I’ve been telling her about the things, events, people, and places in my life for close to a decade. She’s never lived in my hometown. And she’s only even visited overnight once. But she knows me. And she knows my people.
Earlier in the week I was sitting on a different couch next to another close friend as I got some great news from a friend from home. When I shared the news, again, I didn’t need to explain who this friend was, or why it was so exciting.
While I might miss running into people around town who know me so well, I realized as I sat in those spaces with those good friends who are not from what “home” used to be, that I have somehow in life been given the gift of figuring out early how to share my home and my life with anyone that I’m around. It takes time to build up that rapport, it takes time to explain the nuances of who people are and how they fit together and where everyone is from and all of it, but eventually, it comes.
While I might no longer live in a town where I have a lot of people like that (yet), I have those people. And it gives me a lot of joy and peace to know that now, in this space in life, I am still well known. In that sense, what I miss about home is not isolated to a specific place — those people are around the country and around the world — and it’s not something I have to miss.
Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.
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