a dispatch from home
and some songs that remind me of other homes
Yes, it’s been over a month since I last sent something out. Please bear with me as a lot has happened in my personal life over the past few weeks, namely having to accept the fact that I’m a Taylor Swift fan again while also dealing with the loss of a relationship that meant so much to me..
I am, of course, talking about my ex-friend Norma the cow, who departed my Animal Crossing island last month with nary a semblance of gratitude for the hard work I’ve put into maintaining our friendship with daily gifts and island maintenance. Did it all mean nothing to you, Norma?!
Norma’s happy smile betrays her cruel demeanor towards those she has decided to abandon. She is the devil incarnate.
I definitely did not spent 2 hours making this gif instead of writing.
Truthfully, the biggest thing that’s changed for me is that in my last post I was living in one home, and as I type this one I am living in another. I honestly don’t mean for all of these posts to end up becoming so personal, but given the nature of my current list of subscribers, which are all close friends and family of mine, I think it’s okay to keep going on the diaristic path for now. I definitely want to be writing about other things that are more in the pop-culture space though, and hope to do more of that in the future! But right now, I need to get some things out.
Here is an essay on what it is like to be in a home that doesn’t feel like home.
“What does home mean to you?” asked a friend of my mother’s who was interviewing my mother, my brother and I about being a family for a school assignment. We were staring at each other on a blurry Zoom call, awkwardly asking questions on the values we were raised on (being kind, honest, and hard working), the chores we did around the house (we barely did chores as children, as adults we do slightly more), and the punishments our mom would dole out when we were children (in 7th grade, mom took away my manga because I wasn’t doing homework and I was depressed for a week).
When the question of “home” came up, I jumped at the chance to enforce my status as oldest child, and therefore, the best child. I cheekily grinned and answered, “Home is wherever my mom is!” While the call wasn’t a competition between my brother and I, that answer scored me some serious best-child points.
(Mom was not reached for comment to confirm, but we all know the truth.)
This call happened a few months ago, when I wasn’t living with my mom but was staying with someone else I loved, in a city that wasn’t the one I grew up in but where I spent many years growing as an adult. I was comfortable where I was and even relieved to not be a part of the group of young adults my age, who were finding themselves back home with their families as quarantining became our new normal.
In that call, it was easy for me to say that home where my mom was living, in a small apartment that I hadn’t spent much time in, where I didn’t have my own bedroom, in a city I still wasn’t familiar with.
It was easy for me to say that home was where my mom was living because I didn’t have to live with her.
Well, that’s an extremely rude and unfair way of thinking, isn’t it? I guess it makes sense then that karma came to bite me in the ass when I unexpectedly moved back home in the beginning of July.
I’m sitting here typing this essay in a garage that’s been converted into an office space by way of a small table, desk chair, and a constantly running fan to supplement the loss of an AC unit. Truthfully it’s not a bad setup, not counting the times I’ve opened the garage door an ounce to get fresh air only to run out screaming at the sight of what I swear was a murder hornet. I still have nightmares.
The idea of going back home brought with it a different kind of nightmare, an emotional response to remembering the bouts of sadness and anxiety attacks I would get while home for a few months after graduation last year. It was the first time I had really spent a chunk of the year at home without having any set plan on where to go next, and the uncertainty of the future was terrifying.
For the bulk of my college years I was always in between places, moving from short stints at home to sublets in New York for internships, then back home for only a month before heading to another sublet in Boston for school. Sometime in the middle of this back and forth, my home moved to another end of the country; I haven’t been back to the city where I grew up in three years.
The combination of my long-extended period of post-grad depression along with having the time to fully process being in a new home led to increasing feelings of resentment. I felt like I was intruding in the life of my family, who had built up a routine long before I arrived, and harbored jealousy towards as those I cared about started jobs, socialized with friends, and simply had the freedom that I believed I lacked.
It’s embarrassing to be typing these words out now, because while I don’t want to invalidate the feelings I had at the time, I can’t imagine they made living at home any more bearable. When I did eventually move out, those feelings developed into a cocky self-assurance that I was better off not being at home, that moving back would only make me depressed and miserable. Though to be fair, I was pretty depressed and miserable the first few days I moved back!
a brief n(p)o(em)n sequitur
Did that heading work? Please let me know if that heading worked. That heading probably didn’t work. Anyways. Normally, I use this section to highlight a song that relates to what I’m writing, and I’ll get to that near the end. But sometimes you just need to be a basic bitch and share a poem, and my therapist directed me to this one in particular while I was crying about home, so I feel like its poignant to place here for you all to read. It’s called “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Some great imagery in here, geese and landscapes and we have bodies that are soft animals, but the line that filled my eyes with tears was the most succinct one, the first line:
“You do not have to be good.”
People have said this line to me in one way or another at many points in my life, I’ve said it to people in one way or another at many points in their lives. Some of those people have said it multiple times and I’ve said it multiple times to those same people.
How ridiculous it is that we need to be constantly affirmed by this line over and over? It’s such a simple and honest truth, telling us to accept life’s imperfections and our own personal imperfections as reality. Yet we aren’t satisfied in having total and complete assurance in life’s blemishes, because our lives change and we change, and what we view as “good” changes.
We set goals and get angry when we don’t reach them fast enough, so we call on those we love to give us comfort, and tell us that we aren’t failing. We grow from that comfort and meet our goals and set new ones and get angry when we don’t reach the new goals as fast as we reached the old goals, so we call on those we love again, who may or may not be different people.
Home may change too. I imagine that while wild geese make the same migration every year, they probably don’t die in the exact spot that they were born. No ripple in the river is the same, even though it ripples for as long as it was created. The sun rises and falls every day but does the sunlight hit the same spots as the day before? Our bodies are soft but some parts are softer than others.
A home isn’t always a home for the same people, but it’s a home for as long as it’s called one, by someone, somewhere.
back to it
I had a home before this one. It was small but cosy, willing to stay awake with me for long hours past bedtime as my young, spritely teenage body worked overtime on college application essays and studied for AP exams. I had another home before that one. It was bright and airy and cheered me one when I would come home from middle school and use the time I had by myself to sing bad covers of anime theme songs. I had another home before that one. It watched me grow up and showed me the places where I could pretend to be a superhero or wrangle my brothers into creating a zoo in the backyard.
There were other homes too: One was in a wilderness in the middle of Wisconsin, a magical Jewish place where I met friends who became sisters. Another was in South Korea, where I walked the crowded streets of the Insa-dong neighborhood in Seoul with friends, searching for vegan Korean restaurants and skincare shops. New York was an on-again, off-again home for a few summers, showering me with glamorous skylines and less glamorous unpaid internships, a city where I first learned to live alone, and love myself while doing it. Recently I had a home in Boston, where I fell in love with music and writing and friends and a partner, and I am still mourning that home but I am not homeless.
Happiness wasn’t a perfect constant in these homes. I experienced the full gamut of emotions through all of them. But to expect a home to live up near-perfect standards is expecting too much. Homes are best experienced when they are fully lived in anyway. A good home envelops us joy and sadness, seeing us at our worst more often than our best.
I have a home now. It is frenetic but welcoming, bursting with canine energy while embracing me when I double down in tears. It is my dogs and my brothers and yes, it is my mom.
Damn. That was deep. Wish I could have said all of that in the Zoom call!
Technically I could list all the songs in folklore for this section, but I’ll spare you my endless swiftian blubbering about how this is the perfect album to drop at the worst time in my life, like I never would have thought a Taylor Swift album would be my breakup album but it fucking is and I hate it but I love it if you know what I mean anyways.
I described some of the homes that I’ve lived in using words, but they could also be described by the music that soundtracked my life while I was living in those homes. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of songs that take me back to the different homes of my life.
YUI - “Again”
This woman soundtracked my middle school bus rides; I haven’t heard a song by her that hasn’t tugged me by the heartstrings, even if I never knew what she was singing about. Most of her music has a flowery acoustic vibe, but “Again” is a shōnen anime theme song, literally and figuratively — it opened the 1st season of my favorite anime, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
2NE1: “Go Away”
I specifically remember listening to this 2NE1 song in 2010, on a bus ride to my high school, imagining myself as the spotlight-stealing blonde rapper/singer CL, yelling into a microphone on stage to a choreographed routine. It sounds weird, but I think that was the moment I wanted to work in music? K-pop works in mysterious ways!
The Black Eyed Peas - “I Gotta Feeling”
I will unashamedly admit that this song once made me cry! It is a great gut wrenching song about dancing with your friends, and when you used to use that song to dance with your friends at Jewish summer camp, then leave those friends, waiting for another summer to come around to you can see them again, the song is going to make you cry because it is going to make you think about dancing with your friends at Jewish summer camps, OKAY? I sing that “Mazel Tov” in the pre-chorus every fucking time, don’t you dare judge.
Sia - “Elastic Heart”
This is the song that comes to me when I think of my time in South Korea, because for some reason my best friend and I would speak the lyrics to each other in casual conversation where ever we were. I have no idea why? Or who even started it? (best friend in question, if you are reading this newsletter, please confirm that this is a thing that we did or if I’m completely off base here.)
Bebe Rexha - “No Broken Hearts (feat. Nicki Minaj)”
The sixteenth year of the 2000s was pretty horrible politically, but in my moments of despair I knew the Lord had blessed me with a song to return to when all hope felt like it was lost. That song was “No Broken Hearts.” It’s a club banger with a BPM that has been stretched to the outer limits of earth, a piece of gum spread so long that you’d choke on its stringy body the minute you put it in your mouth. Bebe Rexha is perfect on this song, morphing her vocal fry with the dark excesses of autotune to become its own monstrous being. She champions us to live our lives to the fullest, going “hard until the day we die,” while also accepting that sometimes you just need to meet someone “for eggs in the morning.” Nicki Minaj’s verse is criminally underrated here, as she adds a moves the song in a different direction, namely, one that is different than the previous one. She fucking rhymes “Bebe” with “Pee Pee.” Genius. I know 2016 gave us Beyoncé and Rihanna and Adele and Frank Ocean and Solange and whatever but this song takes the fucking cake. Deserved all the awards.
Thanks to the readers of this newsletter for helping me hold myself accountable, but more importantly, a big thank you to myself!
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