As It Was

Stepping through the familiar doorway, I flick on the light. The bulb in the floor lamp flickers from months of disuse before illuminating the space, exactly how it was when I left it. Looking around, the room appears fuzzy, and my hand instinctively reaches toward my face, checking for the plastic frame of my glasses. They’re there, lenses intact. Blinking, I step inside, hesitant and full of unease.

I recognize this place, the futon littered with blankets to keep away the cold December chill, the bars stools found at a yard sale that I had every intention of repainting, but never did, and the bedroom with its bare walls except for the vibrant tapestry hung above the bed. All these things are mine, and yet nothing feels like mine. In fact, it feels as though these rooms have been abandoned for years, not just four months.

From the baseboards, the heating system rattles to life as I turn the thermostat to 55 degrees, just like I used to. My hand lingers on the dial, and I try to remember why I returned to this place, but I cannot recall.

It doesn’t seem right, that I should be back here. There was a time when this place was home, the first place I could truly call my own. But that time has come and gone, and I no longer take ownership for the things held within these four walls. The life that is represented in this space was mine, but is mine no longer.

I turn to leave, walking past the mirror and catching a glimpse of the person reflected there. I see myself, only differently than how I currently am. The person in the mirror is tired, her eyes dull. Perhaps that was how I looked back then, like I had lost the part of myself that found joy in life. Perhaps I had resigned myself to the melancholy I am so prone to. But even behind the sadness, I could still see that desire to escape somewhere new. I gave her a slight smile, and walking out the door, the room and all its remnants of my past life fading behind me.

February 2, 2016

Contentment. It washed over me as the mild breeze drifted through the air and the sun’s rays illuminated the field of withered brown grass before me. Thought still the midst of winter, the smiling faces and cheerful chirping heard overhead all seemed to indicate one thing: spring was near.

While I was miles away, but if I closed my eyes, I could have convinced myself that I was back on the streets of my hometown, younger and feeling as though I had already already outgrown its winding river and back alleys at sixteen. It’s funny how distance and time makes us yearn for the comforts of home. The familiarity of jagged pavement beneath our feet and the quiet bustle of a small cement town.

The winter wind, light and tinged with the warmth of late spring is a reminder of the days passed. The first time you drive on your own, with the windows down and your childhood friend in the passenger seat, laughing loudly over the latest pop song on the radio. That sound will always stay tucked away in the back of your mind. For a moment, you can feel the muddy ground give way to the spikes of soccer cleats on the first warm day of the spring season, and the camaraderie you share with your team carries you through another grueling practice.

These memories seem so far away, almost as though they belong to someone else. Walking through your hometown, it no longer feels like home. Stretched and too small. New faces inhabit the spaces that were once yours, but you know, deep down, they were never yours to keep.

Without Roots

I think it is inevitable that as we grow, we always believe the people and places we love will grow with us. I think back to 2015, a year full of authentic optimism, a year when I truly believed I could and would call the mountains of Northeast Pennsylvania my home forever.

Looking back, I can’t help but laugh at my own naivety, my lack of foresight for how drastically my life would change.

***

Waking up on the cold February morning, I felt as though I were being suffocated. The walls closed in around me, pressing ever closer as the mountains began to push in on the edges of the valley where I found myself.

No.

That was only me. Growing, breaking through the bounds placed on me by this place. I knew I could not stay. There is no outlook for that life, no imaginary future that comes to mind. Only the image of a life lived far beyond the mountains here.

I can always feel it, when I’ve outgrown a place. The weight of isolation pushes down on my chest, forcing every breath, each step labored.

I often wonder if anyone else feels this discontent, or if I am alone in it. I wonder if we all outgrow the places we have been, but perhaps some people choose to stay, despite the weight. The weight is just something they become accustomed to carrying.

Or perhaps some people are truly happy where they are. Only some of us are predisposed to a restlessness that keeps us from rooting, from remaining planted.

Morning Musings from an American Expat

IMG_1439

I don’t know when I became a morning person. Somewhere between the late nights of twenty-one and the overworked semesters of senior year at twenty-two I began to rise with the sun.

There is comfort in the morning. Its cool breeze wraps around me as I pull my blanket tighter around my shoulders. My mug sits warmly in my lap, the steam raising the bitter sweet smell of coffee to my nose. The pale rays of sun that break through the morning haze stream through my open window while the birds cry out their morning ballads, beautiful, full of longing desperation. At such an early hour, there is only peace.

The only sounds of human life come from the occasional car that races down the small side street with urgency. As the day goes on, the street will burst into life, voices swelling toward the sky speaking in a tongue I do not understand, and have certain difficulty producing on my own.

And yet, despite the walls of communication I cannot seem to climb, I am home.

Home.

That is what this place is now. The small, white-walled studio tucked away from the main road in Jinju. It is still something I am getting used to.

Home. 

I am a stranger in a strange land. And yet. I feel more comfortable here than I ever did in that one-bedroom back in Wilkes-Barre, surrounded by the things I owned, but did not recognize as pieces of my life.

Home.

I have spent years trying to figure out where home is. What home is. I do not think that home is a place. I am even more certain that home is not a person. At least, not another person. Perhaps, home is within us, somewhere we can seek comfort and understanding, somewhere we can find gentleness and peace, but only after we have come to accept our own failings and faults. Maybe the reason so many people never find home is because they never find a way to love themselves, to forgive themselves for the things they failed to do, and worse, the things they should not have done, but did.

And maybe that is why it took me twenty-four years and a journey around the world to find home. Because it wasn’t until I woke up on a quiet morning in South Korea and whispered I love you to my imperfectly perfect being, that I found peace.