The Places I've Lived
When I lived in Chicago, especially towards the end, I started experiencing persistent homesickness for Australia. The funny thing is, back in Australia, I never really felt I was the 'typical Aussie'. There was the 'typical Aussie'... and there was me. Having been born in China, no matter how hard I tried, despite refusing to speak Chinese, I never felt that I was purely 100% Australian. I was just a little different from my peers who had been born there. But somehow, being displaced from where I spent most of my upbringing, where I gained the majority of my self identity, I felt more Australian than ever before. More Australian than I did being in Australia.
I didn't realise that "No worries" or "How you going?" were not a thing in America. Nor that there was such thing as the underlying 'don't be boastful or proud' Australian Tall Poppy Syndrome.
Despite spending a lot of time in the places I lived noticing how out of place I was, there's something to the fact that I'll carry those places with me forever. They're embedded in my identity. I may not be a Cubs fan, or even enjoy a Chicago style hotdog very much. But everytime I see that skyline, I feel a pang. The feeling of walking in downtown Chicago. The changing seasons, the sludgy and intermittently beautiful winter. The personality and history of the buildings. Bauhaus, Contextualism. The grandeur, the matter-of-fact, second-city chip on the shoulder, sweet sad meloncholy blues of Chicago stays with me.
And Chicago will always be like that for me. I bet that even ten years on, when I visit, it won't just be visiting, it will be returning home. Likewise for San Francisco. And when people ask what they should do when they're visiting, I'd like to think that I won't reply as a tourist, but as a local. Albeit, as a local ten years ago, suggesting restaurants to eat at that have long ago shut down, but definitely not as a visitor.
The best thing you can do to feel more connected with your country is to go live somewhere else.
On the other hand, when I ultimately do go back home, I'll probably carry the slight pretentiousness of having lived overseas. Of knowing experiences and a life beyond my current locale. It's really the closest thing to living multiple lifetimes. Everytime I have a conversation, the words "Well in America they have..." will start to creep in.
Each time I visit a new place, my heart grows a little from the piece of that place and the longer I stay, the more experiences I have there, the deeper the imprint.
I have an internal conflict of wanting to accumulate more pieces and satisfying that feeling of being home. But home is really no longer one place for me. Wherever I go next, I'll carry the curse of all of the other places I've lived. There will always be a bittersweet longing for those places, temporarily dulled by looking at photos, but never quite cured until I can be there again.
So if were to look at it from both the half-full and half-empty perspectives, I'm continually being fulfilled and cursing myself at the same time.