23 & (Hypothetical) Me by Martin Allison

For the past 20 years of my life I have lived in a world far from the pure and peaceful creation I had been taught was Earth’s original creation.  Far from the “homeland” (if you will) I had imagined for my ancestral family.  Small trees landscaped into concrete walkways and rain puddles tinged in antifreeze and oil.  Pleasant days arrive and fade by the hour, but are hardly outnumbered the usual hot and sticky or unforgiving dirty ice depending on the season.  Now before the newly relocated Charlestonians attack, I mean not to diminish Charleston in any way–as I do long for it so when I am traveling–but to show how far from perfect it is.  The allure is fleeting to those who live there, and even the endless mazes of marsh grass and barrier islands grow to look the same.  “Too much comfort” with “too much familiarity and consistency” I had told my friends before I departed for abroad. For the purpose of this blog post, let’s just roll with that.  

“Where are you from?”  A question that holds different weight in the states versus while abroad.  “I’m from Charleston” and “…well I’m ~technically~ Swiss-English” strive to answer the same question in two dramatically different ways, serving my own personal agenda.  America is boring, been there done that, Europe is my ~calling.~ Realistically, thinking back now I can’t even pretend to be Swiss. I’m 4th generation American, from Charleston, South Carolina, speak English alongside broken Spanish, and grew up on shrimp and grits with a side of lima beans.  No questions.  Even I can’t deny though that finally being in Switzerland  felt perfect.  Not the grime of my Charleston home, but the exotic mystery of a place that could’ve been and was for those Inabnit’s before me.  I felt a part of something more unique and adventurous than South Carolina, and found myself wishing away the sweet city that raised me. 

While abroad, for those of us with European ancestry, that allure holds strong.  The American idea of “finding where you’re really from” gets us all at one point or another.  This past weekend I had to learn to appreciate that, but let it go.  Yes, the time I spent in Grindelwald, Switzerland was an absolute dream, and yes everything right happened, and yes I got butterflies telling my friends “oh this is where I’m from.”  But on the ride back to Florence, I realized I had wished my real home away lusting after what I perceived as the most “perfect place in the world” because it was different than my norm.  The world is incredible, and holds wonders and sights beyond your imagination, but it’s the real-life, nitty gritty, that make it home.  It’s the familiar, constant, and the people that love you, that make it home.  Dreams will take you far on adventures, and curiosity can open doors, but the love of who & whose you are will always be there the welcome you back to where you truly belong.  Don’t trade that.       

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