I planned to be home for 7 weeks. This visit home was for both work and pleasure. I needed to make some quick cash to pay off my credit card bill that bullies me every month and to have something to get me started in Asia. I also wanted to visit and spend quality time with all my loved ones while home. In these 7 weeks I learned that there are not enough hours in the day.
Taking my mother’s advice, I talked out loud and landed a full time nannying position in Stamford. I was going to live with Leah and Mike during the week and spend my weekends bouncing between Farmington and Stamford. I also scheduled trips to the City, Rhode Island, Long Pond, and Penn State to visit friends and some of my favorite places. I wanted to make the most of my time home so I filled up every minute of it.
The first week back I spent readjusting my body clock and hanging out with family. It was strange at first, but eventually I let myself fall back to simple routines. When I saw friends or family it felt like nothing changed and we haven’t skipped a beat, but everything else felt different, overwhelming, and distant. Of course it was fun to drive a car again, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of being an outsider in my own country. It was strange to see the masses of people and cars swarm malls and highways. I missed the familiar buzz of foreign languages around me. Rather than get lost in my reverse culture-shock I tried to focus on my reunions with people who really matter.
My first weekend back I returned to the Big Apple with Kaitlin to reunite with Kylie and get lost in the wildness of the city. We caught each other up on our lives while walking the streets of SoHo and over cocktails on a Manhattan rooftop. We later returned to our stomping grounds of Astoria and found ourselves buzzed and causing our typical ruckus. Especially in New York City, it is easy for us to walk down memory lane and stir up past lives – but I believe we have all truly moved beyond what once engulfed us and can look back at everything with a smile and laugh.
The following weekend marked a mother-daughter trip with the Barnicks to one of the most special places to me in this world – Long Pond. My Mom and Donna have been best friends since college and Dee and I have been therefore best friends since I was born. Growing up I spent summers at their green little cottage – now revamped to a gorgeous lake house – on Long Pond in Lempster, New Hampshire. This place is one of the few pure places in my life that isn’t tainted with a harsh memory. We walked, ate, hiked, ate, talked, and ate some more. It was a weekend of bonding that I believe we all needed to have. Dee is the type of friend that I don’t see or talk to every day, but when we are together a quick catch up on life brings us right back to following loons on the lake and scouring out wild animals while laughing over Janet’s near death experience with an apple cider donut. Even though I was suffering from an allergic reaction to an antibiotic that weekend that left me with pain similar to knives in all of my joints – I couldn’t imagine being back in the US and not driving up Loon Loop to relax at Long Pond with timeless and treasured friends.
That upcoming Monday I began my job as a nanny for a wonderful family who just moved to Stamford. I believe we meet everyone in our life for a reason and I am so grateful my path crossed with theirs. I was welcomed into their loving home and instantly became a member of their close knit family. These were the sweetest children and kindest parents – and I am lucky to have found something that fit so perfectly into my time at home.
Feeling the raw pain of losing a grandparent made my visits to Noni even more special to me. She is a fighter and one strong woman. Sitting across from her in a living room that hasn’t changed and listening to her recall stories of her youth that are doused with wit and charm makes me love her even more. I felt flooded with honor for being her granddaughter as I attempted to follow her directions on making dough-boys in her kitchen that Sunday. Rhode Island is home to the best beaches and clam cakes in New England as well as a breeding ground for fierce Italian women.
The following weekends were riddled with nights out at local bars with the girls and heart to hearts over wine at our homes. It felt so natural to be surrounded by people who know myself better than I do, confiding in them my dreams without any judgment. I have been friends with these girls since elementary and middle school. We have grown up together and stood by one another through every hardship, break up, success, move, and obstacle. They have my heart and gratitude forever.
In one of my final weekends at home I went back in time to my college years for a Penn State reunion. There I met Christina to catch up and make up for time lost and a wedding missed. C.Ro and I are on very different life paths but even though our journeys have brought us to different places there is something in our bond that will keep up friends forever. She loved me at my worst and has been an unwavering advocate for every decision I make in life. Over that weekend in Happy Valley we tailgated like true Nittany Lions, partied like college kids, and renewed our friendship on an even stronger level. I was also gratefully able to catch up with my old roommates, Tricia and Brittany, as well as old co-workers and friends. It is so wonderful to see everyone so happy and thriving in their lives.
Some of my best times while home have been sitting around a dinner table at my moms, dads, or aunts houses where I am full from life, love, and a good meal. Whether it is my dad sharing stories of his childhood, laughing until I cry over Catchphrase shenanigans, or glorious announcements while honoring a life lost – these moments mean more than traveling ever can. The love from family cannot be matched nor replaced.
My time in the States came to an end and I packed my bags for the next step in my adventure. Exhausted from a busy work schedule and too many glasses of champagne at goodbye dinners, I still gave myself some time to reflect on being home. I needed to return to see friends and family and have some closure about Nana. I needed to recharge my soul. Yet even though it was so wonderful being home during the fall, surrounded by loved ones, my suspicions were confirmed: I am not meant to live in the states right now. I have realized that my life, my values, my wants, do not fit in to what the States can offer me. Everyone is living their lives and even if I tried to reintroduce mine back in America, it will still be quite separate from theirs. But the beauty in all of this is knowing that the relationships I have built over the years are strong enough to withstand distance. I can always return for a visit or working holiday, but for now I must continue this journey and let life direct my sails.
Home is not Farmington.
Home is not Croatia.
Home is not my suitcase.
Home is where my heart is - and my heart is spread across this globe in the care of the people I have met and love, and resting in the places that brought me back to life and offer never-ending comfort.