What exactly is a "home?" What does it mean for someplace to be "home?" What do these concepts mean to you? Growing up, these are questions everyone has to face at some point or another.
Ideally, home is somewhere you'd feel as though you belong. Somewhere you feel "in place," somewhere you can relate to. I've lived here in North Carolina for about 15 years now as of sometime in the next few days, and to me, it's never really been "home."
In many ways, as an American, I've always been fairly culturally displaced. I'm a born Baltimorean, but I'm not really a Baltimorean or Marylander in any meaningful sense, having left the city and state within months of my birth. I've only been back once briefly since then, after I graduated from high school, and as much as I enjoyed what little time I spent there then, I still have no real cultural attachment to the place. The part of my childhood that I enjoyed was spent in Cincinnati. But despite that, I can't really say that I'm really an Ohioan or Midwesterner, either, having left at age ten. I haven't been too far north, but I absolutely enjoyed what little time I've spent in New York City and I'm dying to see more of it as an adult, and I'm interested in Boston as well. But ultimately, I'm not an authentic northerner. And after spending 15 years in North Carolina, between Raleigh and going to college in Charlotte, I can honestly say that I don't connect at all with southern culture, and in general, I'm completely out of place down here.
This is something I have been acutely aware of since within my first year living here. It's always been too hot for me, the political climate is not to my taste - I only became more aware of that as I got more into politics as I grew older - and even in my first year living here, it was made painfully aware to me by my peers that I'm out of place here, that I don't belong, that I'm an other. I always had that sense, and in many regards, it's a part of who I am now, for better or worse. At least as I grew older, in realizing how much I dislike of southern culture, being an other here started to seem like much less of a bad thing, as I'd rather not be a part of all this in many ways.
I can remember realizing how different kids were here from those I knew in Cincinnati, how different people's attitudes were, how differently people raised their kids. I remember being scolded for not layering my manner of speech with "sir" and "ma'am" as so to constantly defer to the adults around me, having lived in a more casual environment in Ohio. And I remember being disgusted with how two-faced and rotten so many people were. Don't get me wrong, kids in Cincinnati were plenty crude too, but at least we were open and honest about it. So many more people were set on crafting this "sweet" image to endear themselves to adults as so to manipulate them, while they were largely absolutely unpleasant people to be around as soon as there wasn't a teacher or adult in earshot. They were disingenuous. And there was no lack of people talking dirt about one another behind each other's backs. Dealing with so much bullshit from people personally and witnessing how rotten and manipulative so many kids my age were to each other upon first moving here - on top of being irritated with how artificial the forced all the additional expected 'polite' speech was - came as an awakening to me in many regards. The rottenness of human beings was nothing unknown to me at that point, but said rottenness and open deceitfulness only hit new levels in North Carolina. And it's roughly there, at only ten years old, that the seeds of my misanthropy were ultimately planted.
Now it's late May, and just about everyone else I know is graduating now. My younger brother, younger friends on Facebook. And as a result, I'm definitely feeling old. I wanted to be out of this part of the country by now, but a million factors are getting in the way of that, and I haven't exactly accomplished remotely as much as I wanted to have by late spring 2009. Initial plans and intentions behind what I wanted to say with my first novel - and when I wanted to say it by - are effectively derailed on some level. I'm still going to go through with what I intend to say, delayed and regardless hopeless though it is. This is all part of the process, life never goes as planned.
It's hard to believe it's been over two years since I finished writing my senior thesis already. And since then, I've already completed a personal writing project in my first novel over 10 times my senior thesis' length. (Easier to do with fiction in not having to frequently stop to make citations.)
Grad school efforts went nowhere. I'm not sure if I'll try again, I'm not sure if I'd have any more of a shot if I kept trying, or if it's all essentially futile, objectively speaking. I don't have an English degree to begin with, after all - that seems to lead to others making a jump to the assumption that I can only be an incompetent writer. That in itself is frustrating.
At this point, I'm still hoping to make my way to the northeast, largely because it's always appealed to me. But nothing really changes that I'm culturally displaced - I'm not really northern, southern, Midwestern, or any of that. I can't stand southern culture and don't connect with it at all, but both northern and Midwestern cultures are largely alien to me as well. I feel like jellyfish, drifting about and belonging nowhere, a part of no culture. An outsider no matter where I go and what I do. I don't see a day coming where I'll suddenly just transition over from "awkward guy banging out weird musings on the internet writing strange novels" to "successful, respected author." I think if I ever do manage to make it to the latter, I'll still feel like the former. (Probably for the best that I not allow any potential success to go to my head anyway. I was only just published for the first time last year as is, and I have an astronomical ways to go if I'm ever to achieve any real measure of my high aspirations.)
No guarantee that things will suddenly improve in the northeast either, being rather isolated and alone no matter where I am, in part because of the very nature of my personality. I've always been something of the lone wolf type who doesn't make friends easily and doesn't push himself to do so, not wanting said friendships to be forced and artificial. It's part of this idealistic search for authenticity in the human experience, in existence itself - personal sacrifices have to be made in this search.
And yet here I am now, halfway to thirty already and still living at home with my family with no idea when I'm finally going to get out of here, and no idea where I'm going to end up, let alone what all I may end up doing to support myself. (Ideally some kind of satisfying writing, since it's hard to say if my dream of being a full-time creative writer is even realistically achievable.) All while quietly juggling numerous writing projects, the majority of which may likely never see the light of day in any form, whether novels, short stories, game design concepts, comedy sketches, or small scale show ideas. (Mostly web TV oriented stuff, a field in which I also have no real connections, nor any idea whether any of that sort of thing is profitable to begin with.) Watching my younger brother and most of my younger friends on Facebook all graduating right around now, all of them off to accomplish far more than I have in the year and a half since I graduated in no time (Even with the economy a wreck and job opportunities extremely limited at best these days, which only makes it harder to start a life of one's own after graduation these days.), it's hard not to reflect on these things.
This is a strange age to be, and it's frustrating having accomplished so little at this point - all I can do is just keep at my projects, try to keep myself sane with hobbies, and hope I'll have a legitimate shot at finding an agent within this year or the next and perhaps finally getting my first novel published, at last going from aspiring novelist to actual, published novelist. If I can manage that much, it's a meaningful, authentic step forward, at least - something to give worth to these years of unaccomplishment and failure, though I know I'll likely be faced with even more failure in the future, in all sorts of manners. I don't know if I'll ever succeed in finding any sort of authentic "home" for myself anywhere in the world in my lifetime. All I can hope at this point is that I'll have begun that search by the time I begin to face all the inevitable failures - love included, of course, in part of the intention behind this first novel, though I'm not stranger to that sort of failure anyway, this'll just be a new variety of that - I'll be out there somewhere, beginning that search for somewhere to belong in this galaxy in some sense. In the least, I'd like to be out of the south by then.
(Hey, at least I didn't write about death this time. Another short entry or two are coming later this week, as well!)