Home is a topic that has consumed much of my writing. The quest for it, understanding it, the ever present need to grasp what my home is and how that affects who I am in the world.
When you live abroad, everybody asks you “where are you from?” Or in Los Angeles, a city of Angels and foreign transplants, “how long have you been in LA?” It’s a strange phenomenon where people are trying to place you geographically in their minds. Where you are from somehow defines a piece of you, it gives the person asking, a small marker, a Perspex window insight into who you might be, and what you might be like.
Over the weekend I returned to Sydney, a city I left far, far behind six years ago, to attend a best friend’s wedding. And the experience unleashed a flood of emotions I thought I had successfully stemmed by my hard, rolling-stone-gathers-no-moss exterior.
Over the last few years, I have come to say that I am “from” Sydney. It makes sense. I have the passport, I have two degrees from Sydney University, I’m white, I have a slight Australian accent (unless you ask an Australian, in which case apparently, I sound Canadian now). I get tripped up when someone wants to go deeper with “which high school did you graduate from?” (an international school in Hong Kong – a city that also feels like home) and “where were you born?” (Perth – a city that does not).
Landing at Sydney airport was like slipping on an old pair of shoes I had lent out to a friend – with the tread pattern all different. Slightly uncomfortable but gloriously accustomed to my feet that took me where I needed to go.
Walking around Sydney streets was like being with an old love from long ago, somehow familiar and yet different.
It was painful, and wonderful, and magical and heartbreaking.
Sydney is a beautiful city. I love it.
I am spoiled by flying nowadays. I do not treat international travel with the reverence it deserves. I do not get the same butterflies in my stomach or the fizzing in my knees when the wheels touch down on a brand new tarmac. On this trip I forgot to bring a travel adapter, and a jacket. I didn’t bring my headphones. I assumed google maps would tell me where I needed to go and uber would get me there.
Going to Sydney for the weekend felt like no big deal when I grabbed my car from West Hollywood to LAX.
But I was wrong. It WAS a big deal.
Being back in Sydney made me realize how much the city really DID feel like home.
And it also made me feel how much it WASN’T my home any more.
Living abroad changes you. It gives you new flavors, new people, new spellings of words (like flavours), new takes on life, new experiences and new understandings. It color/colours your world in ways that may seem incremental or monumental depending on where you’re sitting.
You can never go home because, home is an ever evolving concept. It shifts and dips as the years fly by. I count Sydney, Hong Kong and Toronto as my homes. They are where love still lives, where the memories haunt the changing streets.
And now? I’m sitting at Sydney airport on my way “home” to Los Angeles, where my job is, and another bag of clothes. A bed I own, and a couch and a coffee table. The place where my mail gets delivered.
You can never go home because home is a feeling you carry with you.
I love you Sydney. I’ll be back soon (hopefully not another 6 years)