My whole extended family surprised me tonight. I knew that we were going out to one last dinner in order to say proper farewells, until we meet agains, and goodbyes; however, what I didn't know was that the dinner was also doubling as my birthday party. It was even more of a surprise because my birthday isn't until March. We always gather to celebrate birthdays, and since mine is during my stay in Copenhagen, I figured we would just skip it this year. Not so, according to my family, which had bought a cake, gifts and a symbolic beer (it is my 21st).
In any case, it was a great night. No fights, no tears--just solid fun and conversation with much loved family.
The past couple of days have witnessed a myriad of emotions. I'm certainly getting excited about my journey and time in Denmark. Of course, I'm a little nervous to get there and see how it will all work out. The most disconcerting feeling is that of homesickness mixed with a shot of bitterness. I'm beginning to realize just how limited my time is at home, and how long my time will be away from it. The bitterness arises from the readiness I have to go. I am so excited to leave and try something new, that it seems like everything thing between now and Friday (when I depart) is a barrier between myself and my pending adventure.
But the reality is that when I leave, I leave for a long time. I'm trying to keep that in mind every time I feel suffocated by people wanting to say goodbye and safe travels. This is the real deal. I feel like, for the first time, I'm really leaving home.
I've been thinking a lot about what exactly home is. They say "home is where the heart is." I've heard it ever since I can remember. It dawned on me the other day, however, that maybe this statement isn't big enough. "Home is where the heart is" lives in the moment of the singular. Its assumption is that there is one home, one heart.
Personally, I have more than one home. The primary place that my heart resides is in a small, Southern town outside of Atlanta, south of the airport. I grew up in Fairburn, was confirmed in its United Methodist Church, and still find a collection of childhood memories centering around its two depots and adorable main street. I went to school in College Park, spending 14 wonderful years at Woodward Academy. When I graduated from Woodward, I felt like one door had slammed shut behind me; but as that door shut, I found the path to Elon, and to a new life and a new home. But having a new home doesn't mean you loose the old one.
You see, if home is where you heart is, then you can never really be homeless. You live in the hearts of places you grew up in, the people that opened their arms, and the experiences that changed your life. You might travel all over the world, but when it comes down to it, your home is where your heart is--leave it in Copenhagen, leave it in Fairburn, leave bits of it at Elon and Woodward and Atlanta. You have a home in all those places. Leave parts with teachers and counselors, parents, and guides--there you'll find home too.
Home isn't a singular place, one expression of a place lived. It is that in addition to the lives surrounding it and the life crafted by it.
Mary Oliver writes these words in a poem called "October" from her collection entitled New Poems:
Look, I want to love this world
as though it's the last chance I'm ever going to get
to be alive
and know it.
Perhaps that the charge for each of us--to love this world and see it and feel it. Maybe we must treat everything we witness as our home and understand everything we sense as where our hearts live.