Home vs. home

This has been a week of “homes” for me: I left West Palm Beach to go spend Labor Day weekend in NYC last week, and today spent a few hours at the Charlotte airport on the way home from a work trip. I’m on my way back to West Palm Beach now.

My head is spinning from it all.

“Home” is a confusing concept these days

I lived in Charlotte for six years — my late twenties and early thirties — and it had a remarkable impact on my life. Professionally, the first half of my time at Bank of America was life-changing for my career. Socially, I met some incredible friends, many of whom I’m still very close with today. Some of the happiest days in my life were spent at the Whitewater Center, enjoying meals and drinks at Alexander Michael’s, and bonding with amazing friends at the M Street development. Charlotte was my first real home as an independent adult.

Now, it’s a fond memory. I drove through it on my move down to Florida earlier this year, but other than a brief overnight stay with some dear friends north of town, I didn’t see anyone and just waved at the skyline from the interstate. Too much has changed, in my life and in my social group in Charlotte… I can’t imagine it ever feeling like home again, after all these years and with so many of my Charlotte people gone.

Then there’s New York… certainly, much more recent, as I only moved away about six months ago. (It’s baffling to me that it’s been that long.) I lived there for almost seven years. It’s where I really found my stride in my career, moving into HR and Diversity & Inclusion work. It’s where I married my husband. It’s where I lived when I finished my Ph.D., quit the bank I’d worked at for twelve years, and started teaching and consulting. NYC was home for so many monumental changes in my life, and I lived in that apartment longer than any home I’d lived in since my first apartment at age eighteen.

Six months later, I still call myself a New Yorker. When I landed at LaGuardia last weekend, it felt perfectly normal to me. I was annoyed to find I no longer carried a MetroCard in my wallet. I navigated the subway with silent ease. I absent-mindedly ignored throngs of people who I passed on the street. I saw a Broadway show, and picnicked in Central Park. I caught up with friends, I laughed, I drank, and I enjoyed being back with familiar people and familiar places. I even stayed in my old apartment, smiling at the old trappings of my home and trying not to be weirded out by someone else’s furniture being there. (And my god, I loved ordering delivery from my favorite Thai restaurant.)

It was nice. But it was definitely not home anymore.

Even while there, I found myself thinking of the things I missed back in West Palm Beach. Walking to the subway, I grumbled to myself about missing my air conditioned car. Sitting in my old apartment, I was astounded that I lived with window ACs for so long, and missed my central air back home. In solo moments when I didn’t have my NYC friends around, I found myself wondering what our neighbors back home were up to, and looking forward to seeing my new friends in West Palm Beach.

NYC felt like a pleasant vacation, a nostalgic indulgence, but by the end of my visit I was eager to get home, and home just wasn’t NYC anymore.

These two experiences have me wistfully pondering what home really is. It has me asking myself what makes a home home, and where I’ll be calling home next.

I’m still keeping my 212 area code though.

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