It’s been a while since my last post, and it’s because I dedicated the last couple of weeks to spending a lot of quality time with family; with my own family in Cyprus and then reunited with “dada” and “metsmama” (Anya’s paternal grandmother) back home in NYC.
Coming home from another home is always a bittersweet time. I feel lost, with no sense of belonging, like a wingless bird falling helplessly at the mercy of gravity…and this time is no exception.
For one reason or another I spent my entire life moving about, from one country to the next, one home to another, changing schools, learning new traditions and making new friends. For the most part, I consider myself very fortunate in this regard. I have an uncanny ability to adjust to a new place. I can pick up a new language faster than anyone I know (speaking 7 or so helps). And I have friends all over the world that I get to visit whenever I want!
But there are times in my life I look at those who were born and raised in the same little town with so much envy. They’ve had the same set of friends since kindergarden and they live down the road from the house they grew up in. What it must feel like to never miss home or your loved ones, to know exactly where you are from and where you belong!
So what is home anyway?
I remember a close family friend asked me years ago “ But where do you really consider to be home?”. The anticipation was that I would say Armenia. And I don’t think I was ever able to convince him otherwise. That question stuck with me, and, in all honesty, I was surprised that I had an answer for it.
Home is where I have the freedom to be my truest self.
I lived all my life going from one place to another, calling all of them home, but never really feeling like I truly belong in any of these places. Either trying too hard to fit in with the way of life and the cultures and social norms, or rebelling against it all by not conforming. Either resenting myself for not being myself or resenting everyone else for not accepting me for who I was. I called these places home, because I was either born there or had a physical home there.
But is that really what defines home? And should there even be one definition?
The argument every Armenian brings up for why any other place but Armenia can’t be home is that no matter where you live or how long, and no matter how nice and welcoming the people of that country, you are and always will be a foreigner there. I disagree. This may certainly be true in countries and cities where there is a strong sense of nationality, culture, traditions and history, such as in most European countries, for example. But is my place of birth really enough for me to call it home, when it does not allow me to be 100% myself and be happy? I don’t think so...
Having lived in five countries (and eight cities total), the only place I ever felt 100% at home from the moment I stepped foot in it was (and still is) New York City. (Notice how I didn’t say the United States.) In New York City, we are, first and foremost, New Yorkers. Some of us just arrived, some were born here to immigrant parents, and others can trace their ancestors back to those who laid the foundations for this country...
I came to this city for the first time over eight years ago. It was a cold December afternoon, there was sleet coming down and puddles of muddy snow on the crosswalks. I came out of the subway station on 53rd and 5th (for whatever reason I thought that was close to 51st and 9th), with a giant suitcase that I had to drag across avenues. I spent the most wonderful two days in New York that weekend, living in the present every single moment, with not a memory of the past or a worry for the future. I must’ve had the biggest smile on my face the entire time I was here. Maybe it was my host, who held my hand so I wouldn’t slip and fall on the icy sidewalks. Maybe it was the giant juicy burger at Five Napkin. Or the never ending energy this city has. Either way, I was head over heels.
I was finally home.
My host, who was an acquaintance at the time, has since become my husband! I suspect that home will take many forms in the future, but one thing is for sure, home is where my family is...and for now that’s a tiny apartment in Astoria!