Going “home” where I have no “house”

I feel like home is a thoroughly discussed concept, and I would be belaboring already dissected ideas. It’s not even unique anymore to say “I have no home” in the sense that you haven’t settled anywhere. All these people may have unique experiences, but that doesn’t mean they are all special. It’s just a fact about you, just like how you are the first-born, or that you have long hair, or that your last name starts with a K, or that you like pineapples (and this is all about me, because I’m just as self-centered as you are).

I’m going to talk about home in very personal terms: I want to call Sri Lanka my home.

Why? I get verbally harassed on the streets. I get leering stares from groups of men. I have no particular affinity for crows. I do about as well as a frozen bottle of water in the heat and humidity of the climate. I hate how my legs stick to the seat of tuk-tuks because of the sweat. I don’t own property there, and neither does my family. I hold a Korean passport (which I am greatly thankful for, as it gives me visa-free access to most countries in the world). Despite all this, I was determined to go back, a year after I had left my volunteering position, and 13 years after I left 10 years of my childhood, not just to keep my promise to everyone there that I would be there for Christmas, but because I missed the idea of feeling loved and I loved the idea of having an identity.

I say the “idea” of feeling loved, because the unique love and acceptance that I felt while I was a memory to me, a year after I left. Don’t get me wrong– it isn’t that I don’t feel loved in the place I am now, neither does it mean that I think that those who I love who are oceans apart don’t love me anymore. How my loved ones love me in Sri Lanka makes me love myself in a way I simply cannot replicate anywhere else. I say the “idea” of having an identity, because honestly, I think whatever identity I construct for myself based on “select” experiences is an illusion that most people entertain.

Anyway, I went back.

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I came back with a bagful of tea for gift-giving and tears that were shamelessly shed at the airport.

It isn’t just the amazing Christmas lunch with the fake snow “fights” and presents. Neither is it just the beauty of the country, the lounging on the beaches or the fireworks on New Years Eve accompanied by drinking with friends.

I think it’s just the reminder of “you have to live for this”. Given the short period of time I have to stay in the country, every day is so precious. Every conversation you have is precious. Every feeling you experience is precious. You’re never 25 again, Sri Lanka won’t be the same again next year, and your friends aren’t going to be the same age either, and everything is just so precious because it is the only time it’s all going to happen.

A grain of sand is probably not the same as another grain of sand, just as this Monday hasn’t been the same as this Wednesday. But as this illustrates, uniqueness and particularity does not imply “specialness”, as my Monday wasn’t any more special than my Wednesday although they were definitely different. What made Sri Lanka special for me, my life, was that it was a reminder of a desire and a need for continued existence.  The banality of everyday life makes it easy to forget that there are people in your life, either near you or several thousands kilometers away from you, that make your life worthwhile. Even breaking away from this banality doesn’t necessarily remind you of this, because when you return from a vacation, you return to your banality, mostly unchanged. But I was reminded that I am always welcome somewhere in the world, that people I see there want me to feel that way, and this will go unchanged. This feeling has become a part of my banality.

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