Some people leave home because they want to escape-- they feel limited by the place and people around them. The people I've known who've done this headed for places with flashier brands-- New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston.
I didn't leave in order to escape-- I left to reframe my life. In the time I've been away, I've thought a lot about what home is. I want a definition for home. When I have the correct answer, then I'll also have the feeling of home.
What is home? Is it people? The features of a place? Familiarity with the local customs? When I know what it is, will l be more at ease?
As long as I've been thinking about this, I haven't arrived at any satisfying answers.
He sat down on a grassy bank and looked at the city that surrounded him and thought, one day he would have to go home. And one day he would have to make a home to go back to. He wondered whether home was a thing that happened to a place after a while, or if it was something you found in the end, if you simply walked and waited and willed it long enough.
Neil Gaiman, American Gods
"I'm from Stow, Ohio."
Stow is the middle-est of middle-class suburbs of Akron, Ohio. Good schools, low crime, safe cul-de-sacs. It was a lovely, boring place to grow up. I am still-- sometimes-- naive in a way that the sterile suburbs nurture.
"I'm from Akron, Ohio--um, have you heard of Akron?"
From what I've observed, a good number of people have heard of Akron. They know nothing about it-- why would they?-- but I tell them it used to be the rubber capital of the world, and I think that impresses them as to the town's former economic significance. It's about 40 miles south of Cleveland-- I-77 will get you from one downtown to the other in 45 minutes. It's not Cleveland, but it's close.
"I'm from outside of Cleveland."
People know Cleveland-- either as a punchline or as a home to long-suffering sports franchises. Cleveland is a glorious city, and I will sing its praises to anyone who will listen. There is elite culture: the art museum and the orchestra are amazing. There is old money, new money, old poverty, and new poverty. There's a Great Lake; there's a river that briefly caught fire back in the 70s.
I like my Akron identification most-- there is history, industry, and (some) culture here. There is grit. There was industry here, and as is the case across the Rust Belt, much of that is gone. I think being "from Akron" says I don't come from a fancy place; I don't have fancy things. I don't come from someplace that will impress you with its brand name. I don't see that as a detriment, though. It's an asset.
After turning pro, [LeBron James] got the Akron area code-- 330-- tattooed in chunky script down his powerful right forearm: sense of place, writ large. He would repeatedly, in a way that only the true, ear-to-the-ground native understands, make a formal distinction between Akron and Cleveland, two places that stand shoulder to shoulder, thirty five miles apart, and are entirely similar yet entirely something of themselves [...] We make this distinction in great part as a matter of identity, the way brothers and sisters choose to express their individual personalities, even within the family.
David Giffels, The Hard Way on Purpose
Coincidentally, during my extended visit to Ohio this summer, LeBron James announced that he was returning to Northeast Ohio-- to the Cavs. "I am coming home," he said.
Shortly before that announcement, I heard a local radio DJ speculate about the likelihood that Cavs fans would welcome LeBron back-- would there be too much "bad blood", he wondered.
Of course not, I thought. We'll forgive anything, as long as you like us-- as long as you love it here like we do. We like people who like us. We like people who could choose someplace better, but instead choose to be here.
It must be good to have somewhere you belong. Somewhere that's home.
Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book
I think I've really been trying to figure out is how home relates to identity. Who am I? Where am I? Where am I from? What am I?
I am--- home.