the thing about home.
there is an assumption that it is a synonym for “where you come from.” and for me, that’s just never been the case.
i left saigon almost exactly a year ago. most days, i’m still not sure how i feel about it. still not sure i’ve ever really “processed” it. and i am completely sure that i don’t know exactly who i am without it.
saigon. with her dirty charm. her chaos. her river that threatened to consume my home and my business for more than half of every year.
“the island of broken toys,” my best friend, seamus, and i called it every weekend at our friday night dinners. (no new friends. of course.) passing right by the ubiquitous blue plastic chairs and silver folding tables dishing out street noodles in favor of pork belly bao, coffee vanilla porters, and the finest japanese pizza in southeast asia. (no, it’s really good. trust me.)
before saigon (and in a way every day since), my life has had a consistent through-line of what i used to call roamsickness. a feeling like homesickness, but in a way its opposite. a nostalgia for a place you’ve never been. missing a feeling you’re not sure you’ve ever felt.
i am from…a strange place. a place made stranger by its almost comical ordinariness. picket fences. gated communities. a gazebo in the town square. strip malls and chain restaurants. i grew up thinking that red lobster was fancy because there was, well, lobster. (dem biscuits tho.) the tiny town i am from is starkly juxtaposed to the neighboring city. an urban area left to rust and ruin after the factories closed. with a high rate of unemployment, and therefore a high rate of crime. it’s where my father grew up.
ohio never felt like home to me. it was stifling. conservative. fucking backwards. i hated the jonses. (and there were many, but because of the italian and lebanese influences, they had more colorful surnames.) and i despised keeping up with them, even though, of course i tried to anyway. i hated being told what to do, what i could and couldn’t wear. i hated being talked about. and i had a miserable time. i can’t say that university was better.
i realize now that it was expat culture that raised me, not ohio. it was when i was finally in the company of other people like me. people who skewed liberal, who valued travel, who said yes to things, who cared more about adventure and curiosity and diversity and self-expression than climbing any kind of ladder.
expat culture, if you don’t know, really is an entity of its own. it’s such a special thing. the kinds of friendships that can open up in the most unlikely places. commonalities can be as vague as a shared language. (don’t forget, english is spoken from the philippines to south africa, wales to singapore. it’s not a uniform culture.) and when you live abroad, chances are you weren’t born there. you probably don’t have your family there. and so…you probably want to make some friends. the art of making friends into adulthood is, i’ve come to learn, really rare.
moving to mexico, though, showed me a different kind of “expat culture.” in my experience, expat to me means global. truly international. but for the most part, the foreigners in mexico are a north american monolith. this makes for a far less diverse (and far more politicized) experience. less about celebrating differences and more about underlining and centralizing “americanness.”
the culture shock i’ve experienced in the past year has been a result of american culture. not mexican culture.
it’s been heavy on my mind, lately. stay or go. do i stay and try to connect to my heritage? (another really complicated and often painful facet of this. i am white. i’m american. but i’m also mexican. though i don’t have the look, the name, or the language skills. this is a part of my identity my grandmother would be heartbroken to see me disown, were she still alive.) do i stay and learn this language (a much easier task than vietnamese) and be closer to my parents? or go back. to asia. to the first and last place i have ever called home.
this past month, i’ve been housesitting in bacalar. it’s so fucking medicinal to be back in the jungle and out of the desert. i’ve learned, after seven months in the baja, that i hate the desert. (yes, i’m going back for a few months — there’s more to my life than an insatiable quest for high humidity.) i’m staying in this lake house 30 kilometers from the nearest town. (also yes, i use miles when i’m talking about the states and kilometers when i’m talking about anywhere else. hashtag, global citizen.) and it’s been a sticky and freeing and healing month bathing in my own energy. connecting to my heart.
and finally, though it’s been painstaking and at times maddening, i have been better able to connect with my practice.
this morning, for the first time in…i guess i’d have to say a year, i was able to really come into my practice. to live in my body and to feel “like myself” again. it’s not just the poses or the transitions. though, i suppose, those are a reflection of the inner experience. to feel my heels sink assuredly into the earth. to know what it is to feel the energy both within and beyond my physical skin. to let my body talk to itself, to commune with gravity, and to allow a practice to make its way through me, rather than stubbornly pulling it from my flesh.
being worked. not working. being breathed. not breathing.
and as i awoke from my svasana. i realized.
this is what it means to come home.
that maybe saigon is where my house will be again someday. and maybe it isn’t. she is beautiful and wild and frenetic and certainly magical. a worthy teacher and guide. but maybe the reason i felt so at home in her was because it was the place where i spent the most time on my mat. it was the place where my practice was my anchor, and from there the rest of my life fanned out organically, just as saigon herself expands from the center outward.
i surrendered this name, all saints yoga & healing, this identity that had never fully represented me. a failed attempt to call another place home. and i changed my facebook page back to home yoga. (though for obvious reasons, i’ve dropped the “saigon.”) because i finally understand why this name chose me.
wherever i am in the world, and wherever i go. my practice has always been my home.