I read a lot as a child: cereal boxes, magazines meant for middle-aged women, the entire series of The Babysitters’ Club books, The Kids’ Almanac more times than I can count. I read a lot now, and since my father owns approximately a thousand biographies, I read those, too. A lot of these biographies talk about growing up in America, about the so-called “simpler times.” You know what I mean: when kids could stay out until the streetlights came on; when the general store was the only place in town to buy your flour, milk, and eggs; when Cokes cost $0.50 and came in dusty glass bottles—those sorts of times. I find them fascinating, because my life looks nothing like that and most likely never will. Those idealized times are gone. I ask myself a lot, is that type of lifestyle gone too?
In those days, there was something to be said for consistency. You might hold the same job all your life, an honorable feat, an example of your unswerving dedication to your family. You might be born, live, and die all in the same small town. Your friends you had as a child might be the same friends you had after high school, when you had kids, when you retired, when you were elderly. Those things … they were feasible then. Are they still now?
I think of my life. I grew up in a small town in Indiana, a stone’s throw from Indianapolis. I lived in the same house from age two to age eighteen. I formed friendships in grade school that carried me through my senior year of high school. We shared a bond, a consistency, that can never be replicated.
But nowadays my life seems chaotic. Since graduating high school, I’ve lived in seven different cities, sometimes on and off. (My hometown seems to be a landing spot.) Soon enough I’ll be on to the eighth. Eight cities in seven years? The same friends I had seven years ago aren’t really the same now, nor will the ones I have now necessarily be the same in a year. Because of this, sometimes I feel off-kilter, like my life is rushing by me, and there’s nothing to grab onto, nothing consistently the same year after year.
I’ve chosen a different life than most, I suppose. I sometimes forget this as I get lost in the blogosphere, where everyone seems to be like me—travelers, expatriates, transplants. But then I find myself firmly in the “real world,” and no one’s like me. Right now, back home for a month in my hometown, I can’t help but feel different. And by different I don’t mean superior, because who’s to say which way’s better? If I hadn’t met Mario, I know I wouldn’t be living by myself in Spain or any other country; I’m not as adventurous as I might seem.
I also read blogs of the people who have returned, who aren’t going back to Spain, and they talk about missing it. Perhaps they miss the no pasa nada way of life, perhaps they miss the food, perhaps they miss the sun and the paseando and the people they met who changed their lives … but they certainly miss something. And so I ask myself, How do you deal with a life full of longing for something that will never be the same, that you’ll never really have back? There’s no real good answer to that. It’s as difficult to answer as another question I frequently ask myself, How can I live a life where someone is always over there?
Mario, celebrating his graduation, without me. Right now, he’s “there.” I’m “here.”
Right now, my life is in yet another transition stage. Who knows what I’ll be thinking, feeling, doing in six months? I only know a few things for certain: we’ll be together, I’ll miss home, and the inexorable path toward the future will continue.