At the beginning of this year I started an essay with the statement: “My life is defined by leaving.” That is a dramatic but not entirely unfounded thing to put on paper. What I meant was, my personality and history is dispersed between eight different family houses, five states, three appartments, two cities, countless hotel rooms, two colleges, and two countries. I might have written, “my life is a series of arrivals,” but while propelled forward by train, plane, or bus all I can feel is like an asteroid, like I have a trail running behind me, of what was once my old self and is now burning off in my transit speed, sparkling out as ice across the road.
I’m about to embark on a very important “leaving” journey, away from life as an undergrad, I want to write in the positive: “My life is about living.” I already call a lot of places home. Why not add a few more? Knowing a place as home is the best way to know it. So I’m graduating and I’m traveling–to homes–not to places.
Virginia Woolf described loss as feeling ones life is dispersed across expansive geography: “when you examine feelings with the intense microscope that sorrow lends, it is amazing how they stretch, like the finest goldbeater’s skin, over immense tracts of substance.” (Moments of Being). Woolf writes about losing a person, not a home, it’s not the same by any stretch of the imagination. Homes, however, do hold people who are in some way lost to you when you leave intimate proximity to them, and they can even hold people who come with you but are changed by the new place. People and homes, despite their clear and important differences and my overly dramatic rhetorical comparison, are both physical presences that will never be there–here—as they were once their moment is gone. Returns are filled with the discrepancy between memories and the new present reality. Woolf describes “searching for … atoms,” to fill absence, “wherever they might lie sprinkled about the surface, the great mountains and oceans, of the world.” (59). I agree. When I leave a home my brain stubbornly digs in its heels, though my body keeps moving forward. I don’t leave just my tail of asteroid crystals, I become elastic, taught between the geographic space between the places I have loved. My self through my journeys, through my homes, literally traverse “tracts of substance.” A professor at Middlebury, Andrea Olson, described “life is a process of learning to live in, and love, more than one place at a time.” Yes, exactly.
I’m graduating, beginning the ‘real’ world, and beginning my life–beginning a journey through even more places to live in all at one time? Yes, exactly. Eventually, maybe the only leaving in my life will be the weak leaving of seconds… somehow I doubt it. But the plan is to make every place “here” and everywhere “home.” Being with friends, eating their food, sleeping in their beds, doing their favorite things, what better way is there to transform myself into a person carrying around a little bit of everywhere along with me and leaving a little bit left to remember me by until I come back again? The ultimate asteroid.