More than three weeks have passed since I left my flat in Dunedin, New Zealand, and started the long voyage back to Philadelphia. After sobbing on the flight to Auckland during the Air New Zealand safety video, falling asleep on the floor of LAX, and finally arriving in the City of Brotherly Love, I am slowly readjusting to life in the United States. Although I am seriously enjoying some aspects my American reintroduction (especially Reading Terminal Market, black coffee, and the busy city atmosphere), I find myself occasionally drifting into sadness when I recall specific day-to-day memories from my Dunedin life. When I walk by the Schuykill River, I can’t help but think about the Leith River winding through Otago’s campus and feel a little blue. I miss my Monday afternoon lox and toast from Good Earth, and living with my sweet flatmates.
It’s really hard. Really REALLY hard, like the kind of hard that makes your head hurt. All of a sudden, the people and places that have surrounded me for the past five months are gone, and it’s likely that I’ll never see many of them again. Small things make me feel like crying because they are reminiscent of Dunedin- an ad for a popular candy, a receipt in my wallet from a restaurant, my University of Otago student I.D. I have become so comfortable with my identity in New Zealand that I forgot what unsureness in the United States felt like. Will I be able to continue approaching life with the same degree of ease, or will I settle back into familiar traps? Most of all, I worry that I’ll become depressed or that my anxiety will rear its ugly head.
But then again, even if I’m not in New Zealand, I retain the new ways with which I approach the world. I am appreciating Philadelphia’s capacious avenues in a way that I never thought to as a child or teenager. I try to imagine the Philly skyline as a person who has never witnessed it before. An unusual feeling of joy comes to me; for the first time, I feel genuinely privileged and happy to live in a place that has seen so many stages of my life.
What is a “home?” A home is a sacred space, a space filled with love and support. It is security and safely; it is concrete and also intangible; it is whole. It is a collection of people as much as it is four stable walls. The Philadelphia area is my home; it is my birthplace, the place where I splashed in fountains with my sister as a child and sat in the park with my mom and said my first words. It is the place that led me to New Zealand to begin with. New Zealand is my home. It is where I felt like a true adult for the first time and lived away from my American life and experienced total isolation. It is where I met true friends and established my own away-from-home family. I cannot wait to meet my next home. Wherever it may be, may we meet with open hearts. I look forward to the families that you will create for me.