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home is where the heart is...right?
today was one of the most emotionally turbulent days of my short life (save for the series finale of that’s so raven). it did not deal with death or disease or financial turmoil or any other sort of tangible, capital-s shift. it dealt with my sense of home. my roots. the things that, whether i am ready to admit it or not, have played a key role in the shaping of who i’ve become. today provided an accessible window to every single vital moment in my creation of self for as long as i can remember and forced me to examine the circumstances and conditions under which future vital moments willl occur.
today, i sold my house.
this is supposedly where my heart resides, alongside my body. more recent feelings have had me thinking otherwise. anybody who knows me has probably heard me complain ferociously about where i live. for the last 14 years of my life, i have claimed one of the most cliche examples of “rural america” my home. residing in a city rampant with conservative beliefs, dairy-farming lineage, and pride in the lower-middle class lifestyle, i have spent most of my essential years soaking up every last drop of good ol’ small town livin’. and i am most certainly ready to do away with that. i will never milk a cow. i will never understand the appeal of homemade whiskey. i will never voluntarily submit myself to music by tim mcgraw. i will never register as a republican, never go to a rodeo, never mutter “in god we trust” before eating my dinner. but you know what? i will also never not be from a town where these things are a matter of daily whim. as much effort as i have made over the last few years to separate myself from the ever-approaching clutches my circumstance, there is no escaping the fact that everyone i’ve made weighted connections with have submitted themselves to those clutches. willfully. for them, they’re not clutches. they’re an inevitable evolution of events that have been laid out for them and which they will have no trouble at all fulfilling.
and that is fantastic for them.
here in small town america, we see quite a few families that never leave. literally. since initial construction on my city began over a century ago, a large number of namesakes have just not gone anywhere. i have spent most of my teenage years scoffing at that fact and happily placing myself on a self-constructed pedestal because i, personally, want to leave. i believe that people are innately a liquid in that they will form to whatever container you place them in; the closer the walls, the smaller the radius of travel. it is only when they can solidify themselves, then, that they are able to remove themselves from their container and go on to find a new container that they might just like to liquefy back up inside of. this solidity can come from a variety of sources: outside experience, other liquid particles slipping into their container and yapping endlessly about how awesome the container down the street is. i have solidified. i solidified years ago. but the thing that i have learned is that sometimes it’s nice being a liquid. i would love being content with where i am. i just happen to not be very content with where i am.
why? well, all of the reasons i listed above still stand, but there are plenty more:
1.i am gay. this is really far less painstaking than you probably think (i am a grateful exception to the overarching rule), but it’s still not the best. being very passionately religious is a trend where i live. we have more churches than we do restaurants, and while christianity is at its core a very nice and essential part of our culture, people can use it for things that it was almost certainly not intended to be used for. this is not the medium to discuss that. it is a well-worn topic that gets far too vicious and creates blinders on the rest of the conversation. the bottom line is that with the conservative energy and religious pretense that i am at the center of, my open homosexuality has thrust me onto a platform that i’m not sure i enjoy being thrust onto. most of my peers have known me since i was two (yet another perk of small town life: everybody knows every time you ever peed yourself in public), and when i came out, i was probably the first person that many of them saw as human first and homosexual second. that is a big deal. especially when you are thirteen and really love lady gaga and feel like the eighth grade will never end and just want to smell like the staff members at hollister. so when you enter high school with that, it’s impossibe not to be reduced to a stereotype. in the minds of everyone around me, i literally represented an entire population of people. i have spent every moment since then being very socially conscious of every issue i take a stance on and every projection of my sexuality because i am walking a very thin line with those around me. i have the chance to make or break a certain element of progressivity amongst a culture notorious for not being progressive, and that is scary. i am grateful that i’m afforded the opportunity, but one misstep and there’s no laced net to catch me.
2.i spend most of my time in the city. the big one. with the lights and the people and the cars and the theatre. juxtaposing that energy with the energy i’m assaulted with daily is jarring. i happen to be a fan of the former.
what i realized today, though, is that i was once completely fine with chilling on the farm and rocking out to the latest kenny chesney release. when i was eight, that was all i wanted to do. i wanted to be just like everybody else because that’s how eight year olds are. then, something changed. for me. personally. it does not have to change for everybody. i’m no better than any dairy farmer or timber worker in my vicinity. i’m just relishing the human experience as they are and i’ve found a different fall to drink from.
when my realtor showed up at my house a few hours ago with the papers for a real-life offer, i felt queasy. i immediately leapt on an opportunity to take my car out and lock up some sports equipment for my dad at my high school. doing so, i experienced one of the most laughably absurd (but still very potent) real-life metaphors i’ve ever come across. i realized as my hand approached the lock on the school gym doors that i was quite literally putting my past under lock and key. i then, of course, seized the opportunity to call one of my best friends and ramble to her about the beautiful sunset and the birds flying overhead and the ants in the baseball field which i had been wandering with vigorous introspective intent. she was congratulatory. somehow, her positive reaction served as an affirmation somewhere inside of me. this was puzzling. it was at that moment that i realized how different it was to mentally solidify and complain about country music and make dry quips about your current living situation than it was to turn the key and abandon 14 years of friendships and epiphanies and life experience.
i thought more about the ants. we made jokes about turning the day into a photo essay of my internal conflict. i got back in my car. i drove down the road as dusk slipped to night and pulled up into the parking lot of the most popular and only store in town. i thought more about the ants. i went in and bought the things i used to buy for lunch and wandered the aisles, probably bearing much resemblance to a confused alzheimer’s patient who is sure that he left his wife’s wedding ring somewhere in this cambodian jungle.
i sipped some tea as i sat in the parking lot, fiona apple vocalizing my stream of consciousness while i watched the liquid people approach the edge of their container with a smile on their faces. i drove to the park where i first learned to ride a bike. i felt a lump in my throat. i rolled past the first house i ever really remembered living in, pondering the resonance of its missing swingset. i waved to acquaintances and observed young couples sitting starry-eyed in lawnchairs as they imagined their children doing what i had just remembered. with a sigh and a final fleeting thought about the ants, i drove myself home. i thought again about the heart that was supposed to enter my large wooden doors as i approached them. i listened to a neighbor’s horse let out a cry of what could only be described as terminal complacency. “this is it,” i thought as i swung the door open. “this is my soliditiy.” and it is. and it isn’t. because everybody has a different idea about what their solidity means, and that’s perfectly okay.
and i thought about the ants.