My bud Davey D observed that this blog has been short on the “hands” content lately. I guess I would agree, except that I think recipes kind of count. Cooking fits under ‘doing,’ right? Anyway, what began as a multifaceted “look! Kelli has ADHD!” kind of blog situation has gradually morphed into a “food blog with a side of narcissism” thang, which seems to be what often happens. Does that mean things are going to change around here? Maybe. But not until after I get this bit of introspective hand wringing out of the way.

Here’s my navel. Watch me gaze.

Five days ago, I returned to Toronto after three weeks of traveling, reminiscing, eating, partying, and “finding myself” (barf) abroad. It was my first time embarking on a trip sans chaperone, couch surfing the apartments of old and new friends as I figured out how to navigate each new world. As one might be inclined to do, I thought a lot about things: myself, my family, my career, my place in the world, and the meaning of home. I carry an American passport, which means that even though I’ve been living mostly in Canada for the better part of the last six very crucial young adult years, I am still a U.S. national. This meant that, more often than not, I was introduced to others as “so-and-so’s American friend.” Sometimes I would correct them, but usually I felt it wasn’t worth the bother. After all, they were right.  I can’t stand a coffee that contains two sugars and creams.

But I found that, when thinking about what it meant to return “home” after this three week journey, the answer was different than it might have been even a few months earlier. Where I used to always refer to Milwaukee, Wisconsin as my sentimental homing locale, in Europe I began to realize for the first very serious time that the mid-sized rust belt town that had spawned me no longer fit the person I had become. Too much time had been spent collecting outside influences. Too many fragmented pieces of my adopted city had penetrated the membrane of my self and affixed themselves to my idea of where I think I belong.

It has taken me a long time to acknowledge, in a really serious way, that Toronto is my capital-H Home. For a long time, the thought made me feel guilty. It seemed wrong that I could so easily leave the city–and for that matter, region, country, and state of mind–that contained the whole of my family, loved ones, and cultural reference points. And, I might add, the people from that first home weren’t exactly helping to suppress those feelings. As I’d been reminded through years of offhand comments, I chose to leave them. I was jumping ship. A city quitter, too good for the place that brought me up.

When the global market crashed in my last year of university and Toronto wound up serendipitously containing one of the stronger economies in the continent, it made sense for me to stay–especially since Canada had just loosened its work visa requirements for recent grads of Canadian universities, making the prospect extra-feasible. Plus, after spending four summers returning to a “home” I no longer recognized following academic years in Toronto, the thought of staying put for awhile seemed appealing. Still, I wasn’t necessarily planning to put down roots.

A lot has happened in the past few months. Among these, I’ve signed an apartment lease, thereby committing myself to a minimum of one unbroken year in the same place–something I’ve never done in my life. I’ve begun to disentangle myself from the university bubble that had been the original reason for my Canadian existence. I’ve became more invested in city politics, organizations, happenings. I’ve made new, non university-related friends. I have become part of a place and, in the process, reinvented where I feel I belong.

So, when I was abroad and people asked me “where in the states are you from?” after hearing my giveaway accent, I would tell them “I grew up in the states, but I’m from Toronto, Canada.” I tried on other answers to that question, but this was the one that felt the most honest.  I guess home isn’t a fixed address, but for now, this is the one I can turn to.

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