claiming home

November 4, 2004

Not too long ago I decided to claim this town as my home. The last time I said this, I was greeted with raised eyebrows and some sort of comment indicating how odd of a thing it was to say. Perhaps this is because it is unusual to be able to decide on a home, but it could also sound like a cocky attitude. So, at the risk of sounding slightly presumptive, I really do feel like this has been a year of reclaiming my Southern-ness.

For someone who had such difficulty admitting to myself that I was Southern, it is significant to me to realize that I am proud of this “heritage,” as it were. I should probably explain my somewhat schizophrenic background before continuing this thought, as I belong to a category of “homeless” people. Anyone with a similar MK background is probably already nodding in a sort of sympathetic camaraderie.

The oldest of the four children of a German-Canadian father and a Southern-Cherokee mother, we were Canadians when I was younger, calling British Columbia home. But, my parents were missionaries, so we lived in Zambia, Africa, and I attended a British boarding school there. Though we intended to live there for good, my family had a car accident when I was 9, in which my father died and my mother was paralyzed.

At that point we moved here to Chattanooga, where my grandparents helped care for us while my mother was in physical therapy. I went through the rest of my schooling here in town, until I went to Washington State for college. All through high school, college, and beyond, I traveled all over the world on cultural exchange programs, mission trips, family visits, and time taken off school to live abroad.

While doing this, I always felt rather ashamed of my American citizenship, and especially of my Southern background. Part of this was a perception that this wasn’t a cultured enough experience, part of it was a prideful attitude about having such an “interesting” childhood (or so I was told—I of course do not know anything different!), but most was, I believe, some sort of desire to just not buckle down and belong anywhere.

I think this was really an immaturity on my part, as it was a way to avoid lingering responsibility in any position in life. I could just be a floater, wandering from place to place, and never staying anywhere long enough to really be needed by anyone. Now I have not really figured out the root of this tendency, but it is enough for now to be aware of it, and to want something different.

The truth is that life is the same wherever you go. This is not to say that there are not differences, but simply that people are the same and, more importantly, we are the same. I will not become a somehow better person depending on where I am living, and there is not some perfect position to fill. It is rather just a matter of being more fully alive in this place, by reaching out to others, being committed in my responsibilities, and accepting that sometimes it’s not a bad thing to have a peacefully settled life. So, here I am now, not looking ahead to a better place to be for once in my life. Who can say what the future holds, but what I can say right now is that I love this town and the people around me, and I am proud to be at home.

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