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. 🙂