things I want

I want to spend an entire afternoon in bed, finding shapes in the patterns on my ceiling. I want to make a pot of coffee, but let the mug I just poured sit cooling on my bedside table — I’ll drink it anyway, but there’s no rush. I want to not worry that there are more important things I should be doing, or that my life is passing by while I lay there. I want to be calm for one day.

I want to put my entire music library on shuffle and just let it play, not worrying about a song that’s wrong for the moment because every song has something in it that’s right for the moment. I want each track to draw up some kind of emotion or memory, and even if they don’t fit together, I want to know that this order of moments has never happened before and never will again.

I want to sing, loudly and without any awareness of my surroundings. I want to not think about breath support or vibrato or diction. I want to forget everything I learned in school and just sing because I have a voice that’s meant for that. I want the raw side of myself to come out through my voice. I want to not worry about sounding pretty.

I want to read a book in a silent room. I want every distraction to melt away because I am so immersed in the words on the page. I want the text to leap off the page, soaked into my mind and every fiber of my being. I want the scent of the pages as they flip through the air to keep me reading.

I want to be kissed — not a romantic movie kiss, but just a simple, gentle kiss from someone I love. I want to know in that moment that there is someone who cares for me as much as I care for them. I want that kiss to linger with me for the rest of the day, my lips tingly, knowing there is someone out there who might be thinking about how they just kissed me. I want the fluttery heartbeat of anticipation that follows that kiss, waiting for the next one.

I want to drive somewhere without worrying about emptying my gas tank or getting back home in time for the next thing on my calendar. I want to maybe park somewhere and get out and go for a walk before turning around. I want my best friend to be in the seat next to me and Paul Simon to be playing on the radio.

But mostly, I just want to lose control for enough time for all of these things to happen.

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home is where your teddy bear is

I’ve been pretty homesick lately. Homesick is really the closest word I could find to fit the way I’m feeling, but the truth is, I don’t really have a home to be “sick” for. Sure, my physical home back in Minnesota is a place that I miss often, but I miss my family more than the actual place. In the years that have occurred since I graduated high school and began a semi-nomadic life of moving from dorm to dorm and place to place each school year, I’ve struggled with the fact that I don’t really feel like I have a home anymore.

While that statement may sound more dramatic than I intended it to, it does bring up a central question that I’ve fought with for the past six years. What defines a home? For the first eighteen years of my life, my home was with my family. Growing up, even though we moved once, we lived in one northwest corner of our Minnesota town, and both houses felt unmistakably like my home. My parents, my sisters, and my pets were all there. It was comfortable. It still felt like home for the first part of my college career — I lived less than an hour and a half away, and when I came home on weekends and breaks, my room felt the same, my place at the dinner table still felt like mine. It was all still normal.

Then, as time began to remove me from the house I grew up in more and more, it became clearer that it wasn’t meant to stay my home forever. I started spending my summers at camp in northern Michigan and my school years at college, and I came home less. I still loved seeing my family, but the time I spent there wasn’t as comfortable, as normal as it had been. But still, I knew this was the natural progression for a young adult, and I enjoyed the time that I did have with my family. I talked to my mom on the phone a lot and kept up on the family events from afar. My final semester in college, I moved back home for my student teaching placement. I settled back into that house, I bonded with my youngest sister, who had been only twelve when I first moved out and was suddenly a full-blown teenager with opinions, a driver’s license, and a makeup collection. I settled into a routine: I drove to school in the morning, taught all day, came home, and hung out with my family. It was monotonous and my social life was pretty much non-existent since none of my friends lived in my hometown anymore. But it taught me a lot, and I will never regret getting the chance to spend that time with my family.

When I moved to Michigan for this job, it was a bit of a reality check. I suddenly realized I couldn’t come home for weekends, and even week-long vacations during the school year would be a struggle because the logistics of traveling home were difficult. I was worried about missing my home and my family and not having them near me as a safety net. Even though I was transitioning into a job with a built-in place to live and I was familiar with the area I was moving to, it was scary knowing I couldn’t just go to home when I missed my mom or wanted to spend a weekend snuggling my dogs. It started to hit me that this was what adulthood was like when you chose to move away from your hometown. Some people come to that realization in college; for me, it didn’t happen until I was 22, and I still struggle with it every once in awhile.

I’ve only been home three times since I moved here. Every time has been relaxing and reminded me what it is I love about being there. But I can’t spend more than a few weeks at a time there. I run out of things to do, I watch too much TV, and I get restless. It will always be my technical home, the place I was raised, the place where my parents live, but it doesn’t feel that much like mine anymore. I just keep reminding myself that it’s okay to feel that way. This quote from Garden State has been running through my head lately, because I think it describes exactly how I’ve been feeling:

You’ll see one day when you move out it just sort of happens one day and it’s gone. You feel like you can never get it back. It’s like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t even exist. Maybe it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I don’t know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place.

I do feel homesick for a place that doesn’t really exist anymore, but I keep trying to hang onto it…in little ways anyway. The other day I asked my mom to send me the teddy bear I’ve had since I was an infant. I didn’t bring him with me when I moved, and I haven’t ever needed him until now. Transitions are especially difficult for me emotionally, and I’ve been feel extremely uneasy about the concept of “home” because…I don’t know where my home is going to be after May. My anxiety has been at an all-time high and my emotions are all over the place. This campus is the closest thing I’ve had to a home over the past two years. I’m comfortable here, and while my family isn’t with me, I feel at ease when I drive around town and when I come home to my room at night. So my mom sent me my bear, and when I got him in the mail today, I felt this overwhelming sense of comfort. This one object, this little piece of home, of my childhood, was just what I needed. Do I feel childish for needing a teddy bear to comfort me when I’m 24 years old? Obviously. But I’m not apologizing for it. Sometimes you just need a teddy bear to get you through a rough patch, and this is mine.

pure michigan, a love story (of sorts)

I’ve lived in the midwest my entire life. I spent the first eighteen years of my life in the same town in southern Minnesota, then attended college in northern Iowa. Needless to say, when I moved to Michigan, I wasn’t shocked by the cold winters or the ridiculous amounts of snow. I grew up in it, I learned to drive in it, it didn’t scare me. I’ve always prided myself on being from the northern midwest, because we have thick skin when it comes to winter. But for a long time, I thought that was my only claim to fame when it came to hailing from the middle of the country; “I’m used to the snow.” It took me most of my life and a move to Michigan to learn to appreciate the region I call home beyond just being unafraid of tomorrow’s blizzard.

Truthfully, there are a lot of places I’d love to live in the future. I feel like I should explore other areas of the country, new regions and new cities. But I think I’ll always have immense pride for the region in which I grew up. I didn’t know it when I was younger, but people are definitely nicer here. You know that stereotype “Minnesota nice”? That’s a real thing. I didn’t see it until I traveled to other places, but there’s a certain neighborly attitude that most people adopt in my hometown and others like it. I didn’t appreciate it before, but I certainly do now.

The midwest will always be my home, and honestly, I think I could do much worse. Sure, people from either coast will tell you that it’s the center of civilization, because that’s where all the big cities with “real culture” are located, or you can find any number of places open after 2am, or because the local music scene has been praised by Pitchfork, and maybe they’re right. I don’t know. But the midwest has great metropolitan areas, too. We have culture. We have local musicians. We aren’t just cows and corn fields (though the drive to my college town would suggest otherwise). Yes, things are more spread apart, and it gets frustrating when the nearest major airport or great concert venue is two hours away, or you can’t find anything to do after 10pm on a Thursday night. Yes, I sometimes feel like I’m living in a bubble. But after living in Michigan for a year and a half, I think I’ve actually fallen in love with it.

I don’t know why I didn’t necessarily see it before I moved here. I mean, Minnesota has its own fair share of natural beauty. But this new area I’ve come to call home really opened my eyes and made me appreciate what is surrounding me. I’ve realized that I will probably never be completely happy living in a place that doesn’t have real seasons. Like I said, winters here can be rough and long, and by February, you miss the sun so much it hurts…but during the rest of the year, we get crisp fall air and rainbow leaves, spring puddles and the smell of new grass, and summers warm enough to enjoy the beach. Sometimes, cliché as it is, I have to force myself to take a moment and appreciate the natural beauty I’m surrounded by, living up here. When I’m missing my family, or so stressed out with work that I can’t think anymore, I remind myself that I am in one of the most beautiful places in the country, and it helps.

I’ve made the decision to be here for another year. Sometimes I think I should move on to “bigger and better things,” find something more exciting to do with my life, start an adventure. But I’m not really ready for that yet. I love this area, it feels like home now, and it feels right that I should stay here, even if I need to move on from this job. I’ll find a place to live, I’ll find a new job. Things will work out. And if they don’t, I’ll still be in a place I love, and that’s enough comfort for now.