Home is such a weird, elusive idea to me these days.
I recently listened to the podcast sermon from Mosaic's series "A Place Called Home", talking about the idea of homelessness, yearning to leave home but at the same time yearning to come back, and the prodigal son. I haven’t lived in the same place for more than a few months since college started, and when I get back to school, I’ll move into another four month home.
I’ve thought a lot the past two years about American individualism. The glorified ideal of leaving our comfy nests for school, going somewhere else to do something great and then going somewhere else when you’re done. It made perfect sense to me, and as my dad would call it, was the “moving walkway” for my life based on what was expected of me.
Here, things aren’t so transient. I am so used to the icebreaker question, “so where are you from?” back home (in every home I’ve had) that it’s hard to shake not saying it here. But it’s a silly question, because almost everyone who lives in Pune is from Pune. They go to school in Pune. They get a job and settle down and start a family in Pune. You stay where you’re comfortable.
I’m not saying one path is good and the other is bad, it just has made me think about all these things we assume are normal. Especially since studying abroad a cultured SIS student is completely assumed and expected, I really wanted to make sure I knew why I was choosing to do so, if I did. I didn’t want to just do what was expected of me, like when I decided to apply to be a Chi Alpha small group leader.
And I really did that. I’m here for the opportunity to take such awesome classes and interact closely with people whose culture I claim to love, and really live in this place I claim to see in my future. But as I settle in, I realize there’s so many things I didn’t take into account. People think about safety, language, class options when studying abroad. Sure. I thought about weather and timing and travel opportunities- but I didn’t realize what it would change for my mental, emotional and spiritual health. Not having the support I am used to forces me to grow and lean on what’s really true, but it sure isn’t comfortable. I didn’t think about what it would cost me to not have the community or mentorship surrounding me that I’ve been so used to and taken for granted the past, well, 20 years. I did think about what it would do to my relationship with Avery, but didn’t really think it would be as hard as it’s been to connect well.
I keep feeling like my heart is presently homeless. I’m yearning for the past or some future time when I’ll have a place called home- whether it’s being back in my childhood home, or building a space of my own. Somewhere safe. Somewhere I can cry and be understood and eat what I choose and take care of myself. Things that I’ve always had, and really not realized that they could be taken away.
Pune is wonderful in a lot of ways. It’s hard in a lot of ways. There are many slums that I pass by around the city that are difficult to see and grapple with in the contrast to many wealthy Indians that we interact with. Crossing the road is like real-life frogger, in absence of care for pedestrians or crosswalks. I don’t fit in here. In Kathmandu, they are used to foreigners of all kinds and shades. In Pune it is not quite so. I have seen three or four non-Indians besides our group the week that I’ve been here, so we are definitely a spectacle in the city, constantly eliciting stares from those who see us passing by. There have been so many times where I feel like I keep breaking cultural rules and can’t do anything right. I miss a lot of people, and places. Home.
There’s a James Bay (bae) song I keep listening to and thinking about in relation to this trip. He sings, the world will turn and we’ll grow, we’ll learn how to be… to be incomplete. I feel that. I’m hopefully growing, without those I’m used to leaning on, and learning here how to be incomplete.
Christian, feminist, idealist, wife, poet, abolitionist, dreamer, adventurer.