Occasionally I read a biographical note about someone (usually a celebrity or writer) who is wedded to one specific place–a homestead, a landscape, a state or a country–has found complete happiness there and has vowed never to leave.
I envy them.
Having lived in many places, I find I’ve left a piece of my heart in each of them. I sometimes feel lonely here in Los Angeles–where I don’t have many friends–but then I realize that I have friends scattered all over the world. Thank goodness for email! I grew up in Ann Arbor and loved that town, although I don’t have friends there anymore. I loved it so much that when my father relocated us to the country, I rode my bike on the highway for an hour in each direction in order to walk along the green grass and feed the squirrels on the University of Michigan campus once again. I haven’t been back for many years, but I’m sure it’s just as lovely as it ever was.
Next, I ventured to the Big City: New York City, to be exact. Only a naïve young girl would make such a move, but I’m glad I did, because that’s where I met Whitley, who had just returned from a year in London. His apartment was shabby, but we were happy together. I tell my own kids, who are also struggling, that they don’t have to believe me now, but they will someday realize that these were the happiest days of their lives.
It will always be our home, and we still visit at least twice a year, so I KNOW it’s improved, thanks to Rudy Giuliani. Everyone who lived in NYC in the 90s appreciates what he did to clean up the city by promulgating, along with Police Commissioner William Bratton, the "broken window" theory. Previously, cops took care of the BIG crimes like homicide and didn’t worry about drunks and muggers, carjackers, litter and graffiti, but these two men realized that a messy neighborhood, sporting evidence of lawlessness, inspires bad guys to feel like "anything goes," and commit bigger crimes.
You can even go for a walk after dark there now, something that was unthinkable when Whitley and I lived there. A recent New Yorker cartoon caption says, "It’s not that I love New York. It’s just that I hate everyplace else." Whitley and I both resonate with this.
That’s two pieces of my heart left behind, right there, and the third one was left in Texas. We originally went there because we had relatives and good friends who were sick and dying, or needed to be taken to AA in an "intervention," or in the case of one friend, BOTH.
At first I wasn’t sure if I’d like Texas, and it took me a while to understand it. But once I did, I met friends I hope I’ll keep for a lifetime, and we visit there regularly as well. Nobody makes friends like a Texan. I once asked a woman there why that is, and she replied that it was a legacy of the pioneers, who sometimes had to rely on friends for help that enabled them to survive. My Texas friends have a piece of my heart too.
I now live in a lovely part of Los Angeles, where I can walk to the beach. While it’s probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived, it hasn’t captured my heart yet. For one thing, the people we’re in business with here are often too mean–if they can’t use you, they immediately discard you. I know the movie biz is "Hellywood," and I know there are exceptions to this kind of behavior–but I just haven’t seen enough of them yet.
I recently read an article about an expat who was born in Peru, moved with her family to Venezuela as a child and then on to Miami and finally to New York City, where she went college. While a college student studying fashion, she spent four months of every year visiting relatives in Paris, where she now lives. She said she thinks of places in terms of the cities she’s visited or lived in, not countries (for instance, "Miami," not "Florida"). I realize I think of the world in the same way–especially if it’s a city in which I’ve left friends behind.
But I actually see the world more if a kind of honeycomb–and some of those crevices are filled with people I love. So I’m still looking for my "Shangri-La," that magical place where I’ll be content. But I think it may be my fault that I haven’t found it yet–I suspect I’m too restless to ever be completely happy in any one place.
Now I have to learn how to be content with THAT.
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