(And now, the second half of my now-two-week-old, one-in-the-morning ponderance.)
I am no longer homesick in the way I have just described. My current state of homesickness is not crippling like the first. It does not really even hurt that much. It is, as I have said, a thoughtful sort of homesickness. I cannot say it is a more specific form of homesickness than the first, that it is vaguer or more general. I no longer have an urge for one thing in particular, a friend, a family member, a specific dish of food, or my puppy. But I can be more specific about particular feelings or emotions that I miss. The best way I can put this is to say that I am homesick, because I do not feel at home.
Imagine living your life as a guest in your boss’s house. You may like your boss. You may think your boss is one of the most awesome people to walk the face of the earth. You may love your job. But this would still be a slightly uncomfortable situation, and it is exactly the one I have. Andrea and Markus are wonderful people. I have almost nothing but good things to say about them, and the few not good things I could say only come naturally from having lived in the same house with them for nearly fifteen weeks. They have done their best to make me feel welcome, and I have no complaints to make or faults to find on this regard. But I cannot really say that we are friends. Again, this is not to say we do not have a good relationship such as it is. We have good conversations. I enjoy their company. But back home I have a network of intimate, supportive, unusually close friends that up my standards of a true friendship far higher than most people would expect. (I image most people would say this of their friends too. I believe that compared to what I hear from most other people about their friendships, I am not exaggerating when I say some of mine are unusually strong. But I will not try to prove this here. Attempting to do so would be both silly and futile.) When I try to talk with Andrea, our conversation is often interrupted by the kids, which can only be expected. Markus and I can often get a good talk going about fantasy literature, video games, or other such typically “geeky” things, but more often than not these come at a time when we ought to be clearing the table and helping out with the dishes that poor Andrea is doing all on her own while we chat. It is as if Andrea were Martha and I Mary, but since Markus can hardly be Jesus, I cannot quite pretend I am choosing the better part. But no matter what it is we talk about, it lacks something that I share in my conversations with my friends.
One of the bigger holes is that I do not talk with Andrea and Markus about my stories. Most people who could call themselves my friends have heard some small portion of various story ideas. Actually, to make things simple, if you were unaware that I have story ideas which I someday hope to turn into full-blown plots in either written or pictorial form, you are not my friend. Oddly enough, you may still be family. For whatever reason, I do not necessarily talk with my family a great deal about my stories. Maybe I just want to surprise them. (I’m saving it up… like my mustache.) Among my circle of close friends, my numerous characters are a topic of frequent discussion. The questions “what’s up?” and “how’s it going?” are synonymous with “any new developments?” I find it very hard to restrain myself from discussing these things in great detail. Withholding information is something I find very difficult.
My friends may believe that in doing so I am at my most sadistic, but actually, this would be me at my most masochistic.
Having no one readily available to share my latest bursts of creative inspiration puts some strain upon me in ways that are not always apparent, even to myself. And this is just one of the ways in which I enjoy the company of my friends and family. I have no one to hang out with the same way I do with my brothers. I have no one to enjoy anime with, no one to draw with, no one to give me more updates on baseball and the video game community that I really care to know. I had to actually look up baseball stats on my own the other day, because no one had told me how the playoff race was going in weeks. And while I do have my Tae Kwon Do people to work out with, it is not quite the same as bonding with one’s youngest brother in the basement, to the groove of The Flaming Lips.
And yes, mom and dad, I also miss you and our moments of “carefree timelessness.”
In short, I am not as relaxed in the presence of other people as I am at home. The only time where I feel I can really loosen up is when I am alone, and introvert though I am, one does often feel the necessity of needing to feel relaxed with company. And this lack of familiarity echoes through many layers of life here. In ways similar to missing my friends, I miss my community. I miss my city. I never really thought of AA as my hometown until I came here, and it surprises me to hear how much I talk about it. And I miss my country. I am an American, and I love being American. In spite of the reputation for bad food, in spite of our lack of old buildings, in spite of not being Europe, I love America. I miss her, even the parts of her I have never seen or only see rarely. Just two days ago I was struck by the memory of sleeping over at a cabin some friends of mine owned by a lake. I found myself identifying those typical lake front houses that all smell the same and all have the same lake-cabin decor as being somehow part of Michigan, and part of America. The fishers, and farmers, and cowboys are something that I find myself oddly proud of, even if I am none of them myself. The more I am aware of Europe and Germany as something different from America, the more I identify myself with what I have left behind. The more the differences in the cities and landscapes become apparent to me, the firmer my vision of my homeland becomes. I do not expect any European to feel about America the way I feel about it. I would not try to argue that America is better than Europe, or the other way around. But America is different from Europe, and I like her the better for it. We could learn some things from Europeans, particularly in the areas of house construction and architecture, but for the most part, I like us the way we are.
Particularly our apple pie.
Europeans could stand to learn about good apple pies.
But, somehow, I do not believe they will ever understand Rawhide.