Monday, February 8, 2010

i heart Massachusetts

I am finally back home in Massachusetts.

Some of you have questioned our definition of home, our unfailing grasp on Massachusetts as our lode and goal. Those of you who have come to know us abroad know us as having our home in each new city: Melbourne, Bangkok, even New Orleans. It's true we're able to make a comfortable household, make friends, enjoy the surroundings, celebrate holidays, go about our lives everywhere we've been. We create all the trappings of a home wherever we go.

And each place has a claim on us: New Orleans as a place where we enjoyed purpose, great food and music, grew into our adults selves more fully, realized our talents more, made friendships grounded in sweat and ideals. Melbourne as the place of Petra's matrilineal ancestry, where she enjoyed being part of a vast and loving and very like-her extended family, where I enjoyed academic success and the beginnings of a promising career and met a deeply inspiring mentor, and where we both made good friends and explored the gorgeous bush and coast of the wilds of Australia. Bangkok as a place of priorities thrown into harsh contrast, of serving great needs and powerfully living out our ideals, as well as being socially appreciated in a way that has spoiled us.

So why return to the US? Three main reasons: our closest family and friends are here and we miss them. American grad schools are unparalleled, and we want to be able to advance our careers which requires further schooling for each of us. And we are thinking of starting a family, and would like to do so in the place we consider our home.

But why, out of the whole country, Massachusetts? Well, first of all, though it's a little-known fact, it is the state in which we were both born and spent our formative years (P in Eastern and E in Western MA). There's something to be said for returning to the lands of one's birth, and to the strength of early geographic imprinting.

Pragmatically, Massachusetts is the state where we have our bank accounts and drivers' licences, where we file taxes, where our infrastructure currently exists. And it's the state in which our possessions currently reside. It's also the state in which we have job networks, can easily step into work with former employers, and be aware enough of the community institutions to effectively navigate future job searches. As we return with empty pockets into a difficult economy, this is no small consideration.

Massachusetts is the state in which we were married, one of the few states in which our marriage is recognized, one of the few in which we could legally and practically create the family we hope for, one of the few in which we feel that our relationship and rights and selves are safe and supported. These are not matters which we are willing to concede.

It's also the state that loves us the most. While it's not as if "home is where thy blog-readers are", the map below is one example showing that the people who care about us, follow our lives, support us, overwhelmingly (though not exclusively) live in Massachusetts. We have a wealth of friends and networks here.

Perhaps most importantly, it's the place where we feel most at home. The places where I can feel most myself are almost all in Massachusetts; I do not need to explain myself here, I do not need to hold myself back here, I am understood here. The friends who are the family of our hearts who know us completely and love us without reservation and greet us by enveloping us and holding us and holding us and who are with us even when they let us go are here, where so much of our love abides and where our hearts can rest. I don't need a map or even to be awake to navigate here. I can cook the foods. I know the plants, the weather, I could survive in the wilderness here. I know the politics, the teams, the social cues, the context, the holidays, the ways it could be improved, the counterculture, the dangers. I can be confident here. The faith here resonates with me, the heroes inspire me, the history is relevant to me. It smells right. It is my default dreamscape. In all ways that matter, it is home.

It is quite likely that we will move to another state for Petra's grad school (she's applied in Boston, NYC, and DC), but our plan is to return to Massachusetts when we have the chance to put down our roots for good. This doesn't mean we won't live elsewhere at various times: We fully hope to live in Melbourne again at some point in the future, probably after we've had children, so they can know that part of their family and history. And if Petra's work takes us afield again, and/or if we adopt from abroad, we'll probably live in some other country for a time, so perhaps another place will also in part become home. Connecticut, as the state in which I was largely raised, will of course also always have a place in my heart, as will the the mountains of NH/ME and the homes of my family. Other places may provide us with challenges that would help us grow. But Massachusetts really feels like our very own home. And it's good to be home.


Sylvia said...

I am so glad you find this to be home. I agree completely. You are well-loved here, and I'm ecstatic to have you back.

sLo said...

MO showed up on the map :-D Welcome home, E. Sending you both a big hug :-)

Emmett said...

I feel the same. Although I've been away for some time, I still feel that it is home there and hope to be back there in the not too distant future.
I'm glad to hear that the two of you plan to be there. It makes the goal of being back a little stronger.

A'Llyn said...

Welcome back! We've been keeping it warm for you. :)