Ladies and gentleman, I’d to announce that I have taken my talents to Greece and Italy this summer.
And it was lit, man. Lit. The Acropolis in Athens, breathtaking ancient ruins. The Parthenon in Rome, the old-fashioned shoe. Chet street art and the David in Florence. The Bell Tower in Sienna with the most breathtaking view of Tuscany. The clear, deep blue waters of the Amalfi Coast. Oh, and the food. Vine leaves and eggplant moussaka in Greece. Fresh pizza in Naples. Pasta with truffles and fresh zucchini in Florence. GELATO. Fresh lemon everything in Sorrento. (Ugh. Now that I am home, and just had my wisdom teeth removed, my heart is breaking a little as I think about these foods that are not yogurt.)
But this is not a travel blog. This is a blog about home. So let me tell you a little more about vacation, so I can tell you a little more about home.
Let me tell you about an instance slightly more memorable than the others. It’s in Florence, and it was called “Ponte Vecchio,” or “Old Bridge.”
As we stood atop the bridge, the river was black and shimmering in the moonlight, illuminated by lights from antique, tan colored shops lining the surrounding streets. We were positioned perfectly to see a single boat cross the river and see the crowds congregate around a man playing the guitar and singing on the streets. A fountain stood directly behind the man, surrounded by a gate with locks with initials carved or written on them. An adorable, interracial pair of toddlers from different families waved at each other earnestly. A teenager sat on the curb with her head on her mother’s shoulder. A grandma with a yellow dress and nice earrings listened to the man with a soft, admiring expression on her face. Couples kissed by the lake. The mood was romantic and warm.
Our view at Ponte Vecchio
I’ve always held this fantasy in my head of a “better life,” and that is what vacation means to me. A romanticized world which is a hundred million miles away from sorrow. A world that is good, and fair, and a world that restores my faith. It’s what I dream about when I close my eyes before bed. Happiness. That was my abstraction of it. And this beautiful place was the fantasy materializing.
I was beautifully, hopelessly detached from familiarity. My imagination made this town.
New cities hold no heartbreaks or heart aches. They hold but a simple romanticism. When we travel, we see idealism; a slither of hope that there is a haven in the world, a haven with years of history and culture and beauty. It is something about the countryside, something about seeing mountains in the background and houses you have never seen, houses that look whole and pure. City lights and city noise. They are all vague and unfamiliar enough to make your heart yearn for a life so simple, a life untarnished by the discord now thousands of miles away along with the heart ache of desperation.
But as I stood on that bridge in Ponte Vecchio and the music dwindled down and the mass dispersed, it was time to head home and sleep. There was no meeting friends in this strange place, no walks with my parents, no work friends. There was no familiarity. No library with English books minutes away. No spice rack full of cardamom and cinnamon and cloves for my tea. No breath of relief as I tucked away my slightly overwhelmed mind for the night and listened to soft music as I fell asleep. There was even no daily rice bowl from Curl. Or late night conversations with roommates. No, none of that, the little things that make life worthwhile.
Then it hit me.
I was no longer aching to be detached from familiarity.
I missed home, all its funny little memories, all its pain and heartbreak.
It’s a beautiful thing, really, traveling. I’m not saying it isn’t. It’s wonderful. Seeing the world. Recreating yourself in this foreign country. Opening yourself to new perspectives. Learning from new cultures. Seeing the beauty of an unknown place. I’ve always wanted to be an open mind. I’ve been so frustrated with current events in America lately. And I’ve always been a dreamer, stuck in a fantasy world.
But reality is pretty good, too. Reality is where life happens.
I was talking about this to my mom the other day as we were walking around the neighborhood. I said something along the lines of, “I don’t know what’s been happening to me since going to college. I used to, you know, just escape. In reading. In writing. In music. In sports. In fantasy worlds where there was no harm done. But now I can’t do that. I think there are things that matter more. My own life. Real things I want to change.” My ever-wise mother replied that that was what was called growing up. And that home, and reality is where your life is. It’s where things happen.
After college began, I wrote about my ambivalence about going home. I was terrified of all the ghosts from high school and before, a line I had pulled from “Looking For Alaska.” The older you get, the further you distance yourself from your home and childhood. Why did I ache to go home, to go back to reality, all of a sudden? There were enough skeletons in the closet for me to want to run as far away as I could.
I will pull another quote from John Green’s “Looking For Alaska,” one of my favorite books, to contrast it from the quote I pulled from it last year.
“We never need be hopeless, because we never are broken.”
I don’t know if this is completely true. Things do break. Things shatter and break and tug at your heart strings, things break cleanly, messily; clearly, with ambivalence; with small crack, with big cracks; with your knowledge of it; without your knowledge. But as I ached from home, and my own life, I realized that the broken things that once haunted me, keeping me away, were not permanently broken. We need not be hopeless.
Things break, but come together again, sometimes in new ways. Hearts break and heal. Successes break and double in vastness. Twigs break and new trees grow. Perhaps, after a turbulent year of exploring and empowering, I did not realize that I was no longer scared of home, of reality, of what I actually am.
It is possible to be happy, I say, in Athens; in Rome; in Florence. But it’s also possible to be happy in Columbus, Ohio, where there are too many surrounding cornfields, where the streets are sometimes colored by trauma, where the brilliant blue sky blows with it an icy wind every winter day. Because there is such a thing as attachment, and there is such a thing as thrill in steadiness, and there is such a thing as home.