A picture of my hometown is today's challenge, but this seemingly simple task is not so simple for me. Trying to define where my home truly is tears at my heart. Is my hometown Fredericksburg, Virginia? Where I was born (and ultimately where I accepted my first teaching job of the first 4 wonderful years of my career)?
I suppose my hometown is technically where my parents now live, where I grew up and spent the majority of my life: Charlottesville, Virginia... or more specifically, western Albemarle county. Basically living near cows and trailer parks but with awesome views like this one:But even though I love central Virginia (and not just because of the Virginia wineries although it's a persuasive argument), I don't know if I would consider it my home.
When I was 10 years old, I moved to Japan. Even though I only lived outside of Tokyo for three and a half years, Japan became a part of me. I constantly feel this pull to return, so much so that I chose my career path around it and even broke up with a man I almost married in order to go back.
Tokyo isn't my hometown as cool as it would be to say so.
What about the happiest times of my life? Some people say home is where the heart is, and Frankfurt, Germany is where I left my heart years ago. For the longest time I thought that if I died I would want my ashes to be scattered there.
After years of college and teaching secondary social studies, to the point where I thought I would never get out of school, I was finally able to move back to Japan. Hamakita became my home, a sleepy little town outside of Hamamatsu. Every Saturday, which was my only day off from teaching English (school... again!), I would take a train into the city of Hamamatsu to meet friends and enjoy the adventures that only being young and carefree can bring. And I miss Hamamatsu every day...
Now my home is in Herndon, Virginia. It's a nice suburb of Washington, D.C. and I like the area. But compared with other suburbs around northern Virginia, Herndon is boringly similar. Most people live in the suburbs in order to have the quiet, family-friendly lifestyle yet still be convenient to the big city. But if you live in DC you understand that driving into DC is in no way convenient.
Still Herndon is home for now. It's nice, has an awesome homemade bread shop, and a quaint farmers' market on Thursdays. The irony is that it's the town I would have called home had I not gone back to Japan, had I continued my relationship with a man I almost married. At 26 years old the thought of living here in Herndon was such a suffocating thought that I was willing to move around the world in order to escape it.
Sometimes I feel that restless yearning for an adventurous life again. As a stay at home mom, freedom and escape stalk my thoughts whenever the daily grind threatens to overwhelm me. What would my life had been like had I chosen to stay in Japan?
If I'm being completely honest with myself, in those quiet moments of reflection that come so infrequently now, I have to admit that it wasn't until I was in Hamamatsu that I realized that I may love where I live, but to live somewhere without love is its own form of bondage. I think human beings cling to this hope that life is all about picking through imperfect people and unwanted experiences to find that one thing that will fulfill us. But the longer I live the more I have come to realize that there will never be a perfect life, a perfect job, a perfect place, a perfect love. The only way to truly be free is to find acceptance of the circumstances and people in your life. Because with acceptance, there is peace.
So I chose to come home. Truly home. And I chose to live in a place I sometimes enjoy and often times tolerate in order to marry someone I loved. I've come to understand that life isn't perfect, and love even less so, but it is all about acceptance. That knowledge is what keeps me free.
Still... I'm holding out on persuading John to move to the beach after retirement. :-)