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If you had asked me 5 months ago where home was, I might have said something like, “Well I’m from Chicago, but I live in Philly….” In retrospect, that response seems to be a lovely way to avoid answering the question. The truth? I didn’t feel at home anywhere at the time. It wasn’t so much that I was missing friends in Chicago or that I was unused to life on the Main Line, but I was simply disconnected. Unfortunately, a year after moving to the East Coast, I still felt like a guest in my own life. So what’s changed?
A. Nor’easters (fine, northeasterners) and suburban moms alike started saying hello to me on the street
B. Store employees suddenly began to care about whether I found what I needed
C. LMHS Seniors stopped comparing SAT scores and flaunting Ivy League sweatshirts at school
D. None of the above
The correct answer is D. As much as I think Philly could use a bit more “Midwest Friendly” and a little less “aloof,” I realize that the culture isn’t going to change for me. You may be wondering if that’s why I decided to go to Argentina, where people are generally more passionate and relational. Was it my escape route? I can’t deny the relief I feel at the thought of getting out of the college drama at LM, avoiding the monumental task of finding a prom dress that doesn’t make me look like a beanstalk, and above all, missing the tedious graduation speeches. However, my motivations have a lot more to do with the place to which I am going than the place I’m leaving behind. (See last post).
So now you know what hasn’t changed. But what has? I’m pleased to announce that I finally found my people. Correction: I’ve found family here. As you know, “Home is where the heart is,” which means if you’re reading this, you are probably at home because your heart is beating and thus there your home must be. Ok no. Last year seemed like an out-of-body-experience because my heart wasn’t in the life I was living. Enter YoungLife. Enter best friends. Enter Literature class. Enter boyfriend. Enter senioritis. And not necessarily in that order. Long story short, when the time came to board Flight ##### to Ft. Lauderdale, half of me wanted to run back through security, steal a car, ironically hit the gas—pedal to the metal on the bridge over the oil refinery—and Fast and Furious 8 it all the way home.
Actually, when the time came to board, I was devouring a burrito like a primitive wildebeest. It was about 45 minutes into the flight when I started sobbing into my black H&M hat. I must’ve looked like a wet dishrag in a wine-colored blazer and vans, earbuds dangling and raccoon eyes shining amidst streaking liquid liner. A hot mess. I turned up the volume on my “Locura” playlist, but I couldn’t drown out the feels. Ugh. So emo. But there I was, Seat 18A, back to the window, feet on the mercifully empty seat next to me, forgetting to breathe, shoulders shaking, trying not to disturb the peacefully sleeping passengers all around. They didn’t have a care in the world and I was the tiniest bit jealous. Mostly, I was miserable. I recognized the never-ending pattern: as soon as I find people I care about, as soon as I’m settled in my school, as soon as I find peace or as soon as I’m content in my life, my world is rocked. Except I like rock music. So I guess my world is heavy-metaled, countried, dark-cabareted, emoed, screamoed, and (the horror) dubstepped. God seems to say “You’re happy? Ok, I must be doing this wrong.” Then he makes sure I endure more trials. Probably not, but it sure looks that way sometimes.
Anyway, here I was racking up the frequent flyer miles, eyes dripping like a leaky roof in a thunderstorm or Milagro’s kitchen faucet, and along comes Token Stoner. He smelled like ganja but was bearing a vape pen. He sits down in MY PRIVATE ISLE, excuse me, aisle, and starts pulling the moves. As if I wasn’t clearly trying to avoid all human contact. As if he wasn’t from Philly because in Philly we don’t talk to strangers, especially not on public transportation (SHHHH, it’s the quiet car!) As if the advances of some white high-as-a-kite 20-nothing pretending to be from the ghetto would make me feel better. I had to vent to the greater Twitter community.
The flight attendant finally came over to save the day. “Excuse me, sir, you must be confused. This is not your seat.” And then, to me, “Are you okay?”
I was not all that fine, but I sure as heck was not going to discuss that with her. In Chicago, maybe you would be more honest about how you’re feeling. In Philly, no one wants to hear it. Well, No one wants someone else’s problems dumped on them, regional/cultural differences aside. So I said what she wanted to hear. Then I resumed sobbing as she moved on to other stewardess business. What a hormonal teenager, I know.
I don’t need to tell you how I’m not usually a crier and I don’t need to explain all the reasons I broke down. You’re not my shrink (Thank the Lord!) and I don’t want your pity. “Pobrecita Carlina, sola solita en la vida forajida.” No, I’m just chronicling the exchange student struggle in case you’re curious. If you’re not, feel free to stop reading at any time. You live in “a free country” even if I’m in Argentina! And by free, I mean libre, not gratis. Nothing is really free in America, except the people (and them only debatably so).
All this to say, I miss you, Philly. I miss your unpredictable drivers, your lack of radar in police vehicles, your pretzels, your saying everything is “chalked,” your almost creepy regard for metaphysical personal space, your 30th St Station, your frantic school-canceling at 1 inch of snow, your Schuylkill, your desperation, your silence, your Reading Terminal, your LOVE letters in city parks, your Rocky steps, your rocky relationships, your Fresh Prince, your Mummers, your wuhter ice, your Tom Joyner Morning Show, your historical mania, your Billy and Ben (Franklin and Penn), and sometimes even your Kobe school at which I pretended I belonged.
Mostly I miss my people. I can’t possibly list all of you, but there are a few who have helped me through so much. First, I must mention Lexi Condit and Brandon Kopp because they are the coolest people I know who did not bribe me to say that. And actually, all of Harriton YoungLife, because I learned so much with and from each of you. Next, a shoutout to Narberth Presbyterian, the first place I felt at home in Philly (credit goes completely to God, partly to the preacher Rev. Steve Weed, and mostly to the welcoming church family). Then we have my aunt Glenna Fulks, who gives me joy every time we speak and who donated a Bloomingdales loyalty card that brought a wonderfully superficial happiness that lingers still. Of course, there is my slightly more biological and immediate family, the Greens. Ken, Tassie, and Michael, specifically, who have kept me alive for a surprisingly long time, whom I love dearly, and who shall never be replaced, even though my beautiful Argentine Navarro-Figueroas are standing in soon. I would be remiss if I did not thank my best friend, sidekick, and chamuyero principal Jayson Serrano for always having my back and spelling my name wrong on purpose. Penultimately, mi suegra Milagro, who has kept me fed, and Byron Sr., who has kept his doors open. Additionally, I am grateful to them for bringing my two favorite troublemakers into the world, por el amor de Dios. And the last man standing: Byron Ramirez Rivas, who ignored me all last year, gave in to my obvious flirting in December, and who I am finally proud to call my boyfriend. Iba a decir algo romántico aquí, pero mejor que no. Oh nada, olvídalo.
Ok, fam. Just know that I love and already miss you all terribly. Especially you, Chorizo. Yet I am ready for this adventure and don’t regret a thing. Gringa out.