“Without relation there is no significant reality. Time becomes just a set of dots on a line; and space becomes the abstract field upon which we coordinate our discrete endeavors. Nothing is more or less significant than anything else…If we never succeed in knowing, or truly encountering, the world and one another, those existences ultimately rest on nothingness itself.” – Michael Van Dyke on I and Thou
When I opened the fridge this morning and remembered that we’re out of milk for my Special K I missed my days in NYC. With my parents borrowing my car this week, I’m practically stranded. If I was still in the city I could have just thrown on a sweatshirt, slipped on some shoes and run over to the nearest bodega on the corner or small grocery across the street. Instead I had to make do with poor man’s milk (half and half diluted with water – it doesn’t taste too bad).
I never imagined that I would have loved living in a city, especially not such a large city. Now all the baby cities in Michigan seem like counterfeits and hardly ease my urban itch. Even though I grew up in the Midwest and it’s been a little over a year now since I left, there are still aspects of Midwestern culture that I haven’t acclimated to. Like making eye contact with strangers as we pass and acknowledging them with a hello or head nod. I greet enough strangers at my weekend job. On my own time, I’d prefer to comfortably look past them.
Though I enjoy driving, I still miss being able to take the subway or a train. I envy the east coast train system every time I even think about making a trip out to Grand Rapids or Lansing. When I was traveling with Saundra last fall, we commuted to and from Philly and Montclair, New Jersey for about $17 roundtrip. That’s less than a third of what it costs me to go to Grand Rapids though it’s about the same distance.
Yet, I wouldn’t trade my life here for my life in NYC. I miss the conveniences of the city and the east coast. I miss the man-made grandeur of our fashion capital. I miss my friends out there. But, though there is no city or town in Michigan that feels like home to me (or that I take much pleasure in walking around by myself), this state is home in another way.
For months, the only time I was happy or content was when I was in a different town hanging out with friends (I can hardly do this every weekend, especially since my car takes premium gas). The rest of my time here kept feeling like a waste. They’re why I moved back: my college friends, that is. My hope had been to move to a central location, near most of them, so that we could share life together. Instead, I’ve ended up on the other side of the state, closer to Detroit than Grand Rapids. Closer to my high school life than my college life.
I’ve been realizing that there are just as many people over here that feel like home to me. My good friend from high school, Joie, has moved back to Howell with her fiancé. This town, where we lived in high school, is now where I’m consistently doing demos on the weekend. Besides her and her fiancé, I keep running into people I used to know.
I’ve had a chance to catch up with my high school youth pastor, who I consider both a good friend and mentor. I’ve been able to reconnect with a family that used to live nearby us and were good friends. I even ran into Saundra, home from a promotional tour, a little while ago which gave us an opportunity to hang out while she was in town. Every passing week since July started a new opportunity seems to be opening up for me to re-establish my roots here.
I used to hope that Howell would be the place I could always come home to. But I took my high school church disbanding as a sign from God that I was wrong. That I should let it go. So I tried to. What I’m realizing is that no amount of time or silence has diminished what these relationships mean to me. Though there is no physical place there that is home, through these relationships, it is exactly what I hoped it would be (even if some people have moved on).
When I left NYC, this is what I was craving. As much as I need a lot of solitude, I also need these roots and relationships to sustain me. It’s taken me nearly a quarter of century to realize that I’m meant to rest is the ties that bind me instead of struggling against them or trying to cut myself free. The older I get, the more I’ve learned that Martin Buber’s theory is correct: Life without significant relationships and encounters does rest on nothingness.
Though there isn’t necessarily a single person that is home to me, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zone’s song “Home” has become my theme.