I never understood this statement until I was in my early 20s. I always thought it meant that your home is where your heart is. Which, I suppose, it does.
I used to think it was hogwash. Glens Falls, thought 17-year-old me, was most certainly NOT where MY heart was. My heart was elsewhere. Further away, in some yet-to-be-disclosed location. I wanted to go to school as FAR away as possible, though far is relative. Cost concerns had my mother concerned about me going out of state (because I then would not be eligible for TAP Grants) and also further than a reasonable drive away. Those same cost concerns had me nervous about applying at a large university that wasn’t a SUNY school (such as Syracuse or NYU) and the small liberal arts schools made me nervous about entering a “13th Grade” situation. (I hated high school, which comes to great surprise of many people who know me as an adult – boisterous, outgoing types like me usually thrive in high school. I thrived in spite of it. Believe me, there are more of us than you think.)
So, I applied to four SUNY schools, and narrowed it down to two: Oswego and Plattsburgh. Even though I actually liked Plattsburgh better, it was in spite of what my mind had already decided – that going to a school “that close to home” was *not* what I wanted, and I needed to leave the area code. Oswego it was.
Don’t get me wrong: I got a good education at Oswego. I made some good friends, and I did a lot of growing and discovering while there. I was lucky enough to have great relationships with my advisors and a couple of key professors, who pushed me to step out of my comfort zones and really explore what I wanted out of my higher education, and what I wanted to do with it. Still, I never felt quite at home at Oswego. I hear some of my peers – including those who went to Oswego – speak of college, and their college towns, with a fondness that I could never feel. My friends who went to Oswego loved the town AND the college. I never understood it, just like I couldn’t possibly understand my friends from Glens Falls wanting to return there.
For them, it was home. It was where their heart was. For me, I had different ideas.
When I was a junior in college, on a whim, I took a full semester internship in Albany at The Legislative Gazette. I commuted from my mother’s home in Glens Falls (a town, as I got older, I was growing to appreciate much more than when I was in high school, but still did not feel like home), which enabled me to save some money and pay off a little bit of debt, as the internship carried a small stipend in addition to 15 credits. A few weeks into the internship, I regretted not getting an apartment in Albany as I was quickly falling in love with this quirky, political, sometimes obnoxious city. I couldn’t quite place what it was I loved about it so much, and it took me by surprise.
I went to a live reading at Proctor’s shortly into my term. William Kennedy had just published Roscoe*, his latest book in the Albany Cycle. I bought one of the autographed copies that night, and tore through the book. It immediately joined Watership Down and Angela’s Ashes on my bookshelf as among my favorite novels. I pictured the landscape of downtown Albany, pre-Empire State Plaza, as I walked the streets during lunch and after work. I spent many a day walking through Center Square, learning the landscape of Lark St. Soon afterward, a couple of my fellow interns and I started a Thursday night trend of going to the Lionheart after work for $2 pints. Back then, the Lionheart was a small hipster bar located above Bombers. A few years later, the owner of Bombers turned the space into a burrito and margarita bar, and the Lionheart moved to a larger space on Madison. I’ve come to appreciate the “new” Lionheart, but my heart still longs for the little hipster hipster space and the old, musty couches.
I finally understood what the phrase meant. I had finally found a place that felt like home. And, what do you know: it was in the same area code as Glens Falls.
Just the other day, I was walking down my street. I stopped at The Daily Grind for a cup of coffee, and then at Capital Wine for a bottle of wine I would bring to a gathering later that day. The air was mild – it is March, and the weather is not warm enough to stop dressing for winter, but warm enough to melt the snow and turn Washington Park into a quagmire. It smells a little funny – like muddy, melted snow and moist, mildew-y air. I breathed it in and took in my surroundings.
I love this city. I don’t really understand why I love it – there’s nothing about it that is so exceptional. But, it is where my heart is.
*Why, yes, this book has the same name as my cat. This is not a coincidence. 🙂