It’s 10 AM on Saturday morning. I am not at Italian class–after all of my travel this week and minimal sleep last night, I decided I couldn’t face it. So instead I am sitting here in my room worrying about my post-nasal drip and listening to Felicity Palmer sing Elgar’s Sea Pictures on Spotify. And blogging. Because I came home on Thursday night and I HAVE THOUGHTS.
Thursday was a very, very long day. I should know better than to book myself on an evening flight when I’m staying in a hotel or a hostel or anywhere, really, because you always have to check out before noon, and then there’s the whole afternoon to kill. It was 40 degrees Celsius, the humidity was high, and I thought I was going to pass out right there into my horchata. I pottered around downtown for a while, I tried to find a store I had seen on my first day in Valencia (to no avail), and finally I acknowledged my mounting heat-induced nausea and yielded to the siren song of McDonald’s, with its blessed, blessed air conditioning and free Wi-Fi. (Because why lug your laptop all over Valencia if you can’t even use it?)
Anyway. I got to the airport and back to Paris with no particular setbacks (though my flight was delayed by about twenty minutes, I had shrewdly downloaded about six archived New York Times crossword puzzles that I hadn’t done, so the time flew by). And I have never felt such relief to be back in a place in my entire life.
Is Paris starting to feel like home? Do I actually want to live here now, after ten months of protesting? Didst I protest too much?
Yes and no. Let me explain.
Christine Graham, a fellow Arizonan and expatriate (in Germany), and a soprano whose career and blog I admire greatly, pointed out recently that in German, there are two different ways to say “home”: Heimat and zuhause. The former is where you come from, where you were born, your homeland; the latter is where you happen to live at any given time.
Obviously where you are zuhause (it’s not a noun! I just found that out!) can change quite frequently. Last year I lived in Chicago. It felt like home. Now I live in Paris, and it, too, feels like home. That’s how it works.
But I think one’s Heimat can also change. It certainly did for me. I was born in New Jersey and lived there until I was fourteen, yet I feel no particular connection to it, except for the family I have there. I don’t feel particularly nostalgic for the friends I had there or the schools I went to, the experiences I had. What I am, in my soul, is an Arizonan, and I only lived there full-time for three years. But I graduated from high school there. I had my first date, my first kiss, my first lead role in a musical, my first voice teacher who assigned me classical music. I learned how to drive there. When I say, I have a plane ticket home at the end of August, I mean that I’m going back to Arizona. Even if Chicago and Paris feel like home, they’re not, not spiritually. And what’s really confusing is that I don’t want to live in Arizona. Is a puzzlement.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this, especially in the face of some pretty big decisions about where I’m going to be for the next year (everything will be revealed in due course, I promise!), and I realized something that I actually already knew, because of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.
Home is where the heart is, so your real home’s in your chest.
(If you haven’t seen Dr. Horrible, you really should. Joss Whedon–who wrote Buffy and Firefly–wrote it during the television writers’ strike in 2008, and it’s pretty brilliant. Plus, Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion!)
Anyway. Yes, I know the character is a moron and he’s trying to tell the homeless people in the audience that it’s okay to be homeless and being hilariously condescending. But that line still rings true to me. Wherever I am, wherever I travel, wherever I’m living, I’ll always be myself. Just because I live in Paris and not in Chicago doesn’t mean I’m not the same Anne I was, in essentials, anyway. Which is not to say that my surroundings don’t have a profound effect on me–of course they do. They have to. It’s unavoidable. But I think the challenge is not to lose oneself in adapting to a new country or a new home. Because if I can hold onto my interior life, the life I live in my head and my heart, I can live anywhere and feel at home. Honestly, despite the heat and the travel exhaustion and the loneliness, I even felt at home in Valencia; after a few days I knew my way around, things were familiar, I woke up in the morning and knew where I wanted to go for breakfast. I figured out the train system, and which bus would get me where I needed to go, and where the ATMs were. I knew where I wanted to go to get my second horchata. I could have lived there.
I think this is a conundrum that a lot of singers face. An opera career involves a lot of traveling. How do we pursue this kind of life without feeling rootless and aimless? If this becomes my life, how will I manage to stay grounded and purposeful?
Well, I’ll tell you.
…I don’t know. I still hate to uproot myself, and I may be that way my whole life until I decide to stop uprooting myself. But for now, I’m just going to go along for the ride and see if the posh, posh traveling life A. comes to me professionally and B. suits me. Who knows?