Dear fellow travelers that are going from one planet to another as I am currently doing,
Okay, well I am not traveling intergalactically, rather I am traveling interstate, but let’s be honest; that isn’t nearly as exciting. I find myself at LAX impatiently waiting for three hours to board my flight back to my home in Saint Louis, while secretly hoping that either Chris Hardwick or Pete Holmes will pass me by so I may gush over them. I have spent the past week in California, also my home as well as birthplace, visiting my grandmother only two weeks after the death of my grandfather. I am not quite ready to write about that as I keep trying. So, I will write about this instead.
Since the day I moved to Saint Louis I have felt torn apart; and I mean that as literally as possible (while still being figurative, of course). The Bay Area is where I was raised, where my grandmother is, and where my friends who are closest to my heart reside. Unfortunately, I often felt like it was far from where I truly belonged, and I didn’t see much of a future for myself in the Bay. So, I went on an adventure to Saint Louis, Missouri, and just as any other place in the world, it has both negative and positive attributes. Some days I love it, other days I despise it, but most days I’m caught right in the middle.
This is my second time to California since I have moved. Both times were unplanned, and have been less for fun and more for coping with the tragedy of losing my grandfather. While of course I missed my friends more than I can usually bear as well as In-N-Out Burger, I also missed other things that until now I didn’t think I would. For example, I very much miss being in the vicinity of the ocean. That’s right; not being close to the ocean, but just in the general area of it. Both visits to California I never got closer to the ocean than when I would fly over it. Yet I found it comforting that even though I was still an hour away from the ocean, the ocean was there, always inviting me to the warm sand and the icy, sapphire water. Even on the coldest days in Missouri, the air still feels thick and heavy; in California, on most days in the Bay Area (though the humidity has certainly become more frequent), you can still feel the lightness of the air and a slight breeze. Even on the hottest days I remember, when the wind itself felt more like a hair dryer’s fiery blow rather than a wind, it’s nowhere near as heavy as the air in Missouri. More often than not, though I am sorry to say it, Missouri feels suffocating, and there is no shore to call me near. Likewise, the traffic and rush of far too many people in the Bay is asphyxiating in it’s own disturbing right.
Since I got the cheapest rental car possible and was unable to plug my iPod into the stereo, I listened to radio , which is not something I normally do, especially since moving away. I thought I would be constantly flipping from one station to another, and at first I did, until I came across LIVE105; the “alternative” radio station that has been around for over 15 years. The music they played felt so new and exciting, because while many people who listen to the radio quickly get sick of music played over and over, songs that may seem “played out” are very new to me. For instance, I had never heard the song “Electric Love” by Bo/rn and I was absolutely enthralled by it. When I looked it up on Youtube, I found the song was already a year old and had over 7 million listens. I suppose I am a bit late to the party.
Not only was the new music invigorating, but they also played many older songs that used to belong to the soundtrack of my teenage years. Songs such as “All These Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers, “Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance, or “Lazy Eye” by Silversun Pickups were forgotten until they suddenly came flying out of my rental car speakers, drowning me in an overall pleasant mix of emotion and nostalgia.
On one night during my visit, I went to my friend’s house to spend time with three of my very favorite people. Unfortunately, after only an hour my body suddenly decided to be taken over by horrible exhaustion. My organs felt flipped over, my bones felt as heavy as lead, and my skin felt weighted down by sandbags. Every bit of movement became a great effort. My sweet friends remained by my side as I lay helpless and frustrated in their guest bed. Once I was capable of taking myself back to where I was staying, I dragged myself into my car and blasted the stereo to keep awake. As I drove down the expressway, admiring the coolness of the air and the clarity of the sky while contemplating the purpose of my existence, a familiar guitar riff began to play.
And then, that oh so familiar lyric sang by an equally familiar voice for most people of my generation:
Don’t write yourself off yet.
It’s only in your head you feel left out, or looked down on.
My heart was lifted and in that moment I didn’t feel quite so sick. Driving through the beautiful California night, singing my little heart out, I felt that it was possible that maybe everything really could be just fine, and everything, everything, will be alright, alright. The radio is such a funny thing; I have Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle” on my iPod, and I listen to it regularly. But having it come on shuffle via iPod is not nearly as exciting as a DJ at a radio station deciding to in a certain moment play that one song that impeccably matches what I am currently experiencing. These itty bitty, seemingly unnoticeable events are for some reason massively important to me. To me, they are reminders of the human connection, a reminder that I am not alone in my whirlpool of emotions and conflict. The DJ gets it. Jimmy definitely gets it. I don’t think that’s the singer’s real name, but whatever. Oh wait, I googled it, and his name is Jim! You learn something new every day! But anyway. Back to the whole being ripped apart by life…thing.
Of course the hardest part of leaving home is not being around the people I adore. When I am with them it feels like I’m a puzzle piece that has finally been properly placed after sitting in the box for much too long. The familiarity between us is what makes me feel more at home than anything. It isn’t often that I feel as if others truly and sincerely understand me. Whether a friend and I are making up odd scenarios that only we find funny as we try to stifle our laughter in a Starbucks, or the friend I see as my very wise older sister is advising me on how to navigate my life, moments like these remind me that despite being a far from normal girl, there are amazing people that have found a normalcy with me that we can happily coexist in.
I explained my conflict to one of my newer friends who has quickly become a very close one, which is also rare for me. His reply was actually quite inspiring. He told me,
Well, if Luke never left Tattooine, he probably would have never been a Jedi. It was probably the best thing for him Adventure wise. You will do great things even if it means leaving the ones you love.
I can’t help but hope with all my heart that my dear friend is right. I don’t know where my home is, where I belong, or if I’ll ever find where I belong at all. If anything, I at least can look forward to arrive to wherever it may be with a lightsaber, a badass robe and control of the Force. Now that’s a great silver lining.
Even though I also hope to make new friends wherever I find myself, the fact remains that one friend does not replace another. Each of my friends are fantastically unique and are one of a kind. I hope to add to the list of people I can trust in and love, but none will ever overwrite the other.
Good thing I’ve got a pretty big heart.
Wherever you go, if my heart was a house, you’d be home.