Is it possible to be homesick for a place that was never 'home'? We talk of homesickness, that type of longing for the place that holds such things as our memories, our families, and our hearts. But, what of those places where we never lived, can we still be homesick?
I've developed homesickness in these past few years. I was used to having the ability to live in three different places at once---well, perhaps not at once, although I would argue skipping over three continents in a 48-hour span certainly feels that way.
London feels like home, because my boys are here. Wherever they are will always feel like home.
Because of my husband's family, Italy has also become home to me in the past 15 years. As my family in the US have moved to different parts of the country away from where I grew up, it is my husband's hometown of Bergamo which has remained constant, and if measured in length of time, nearly as much 'home' as where I grew up in Michigan. Other parts of Europe, such as Germany and Austria also feel like home, and I am always anxious to get back to cities such as Berlin and Vienna to reconnect with the city and people there.
China has, of course, felt like another home for nearly the past decade. I'm grateful that I was able to get there in May 2021 for nearly two months, as today that is impossible. Direct flights have not resumed from the UK, what few flights there are are unfathomably expensive (think $7000-$10000 for a one-way, economy class ticket), and although my visa status would technically allow me into the country, after serving an anywhere from 14-21 day mandatory quarantine for those coming from outside of China, I would likely have been stuck in my apartment with large portions of Shanghai, some of whom have had to endure a 31-day lockdown due to rising cases in the city. With the Chinese policy on covid still being a '100% No Covid' policy, it is impossible to know when I will be able to return to my adopted country, when my in-person relationships with friends, colleagues, and students can resume, and when I can return to that important part of my career. I walk the streets of Shanghai in my dreams, day and night. Change happens so quickly in China, will I even recognise it when I am finally able to return?
The United States will, of course, always hold a piece of my heart, after all I grew up and was educated there, my entire family still lives there, and many dear friends are based there. But, I've lived at odds with so much in the past decades: the endless gun violence and refusal by law makers to make change. The return to times when a woman is no longer given license over her own body. A festering hate and division. This is my home country. I've seen how the sausage is made. It's no wonder I'm becoming progressively vegan.
New York City, however, has always felt like one of my non-home homes. I cannot believe that it's likely nearly four years since I've been back. Those are also streets I walk in my dreams, often punctuated with cab horns to remind me that I'm looking the wrong way, since I've been living in the UK this whole time. I'm sorry, Your Majesty, Jubilee or not, the right side of the street will always be the 'right' side of the street for me. But, this trip is a reunion with so many wonderful friends and dear colleagues with whom I've not worked together in decades (yes, it's true: I'm that old.), not to mention a chance to perform and create new, living art in New York City.
I am so incredibly fortunate to live the mobile life I lead. The opportunities I've been given to see the world have helped me to see all of the beautiful differences that make us each individuals. But, I can say that it is the similarities between all places that help to put my heart at ease. I can say that in each of my 'homes' across the globe, my personality changes due to the language, the culture, and my roles in each place. Maybe that's why each feels like home, because each place speaks to a different part of me. Or, maybe its just that each place has allowed a different aspect of my personality to develop in a different way.
And yet, sometimes it feels like I'm never truly whole in any place. There are always sacrifices to be made in each location. Perhaps that is the tradeoff of living everywhere and nowhere.
© COPYRIGHT JULIET PETRUS 2022