Rohit's Realm

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January 02, 2010

Reflections on Being Homeless

A slightly disconcerting realization struck me today as I dressed to emerge into the sunny but frigid Chicago morning (5° F, which for those in countries who use a sensible temperature system, is -15° C)—I had lived in Chicago for over two years. Longer, indeed, than my time in San Francisco. It hardly felt true. Had it really been that long? And as I put on accessory after accessory intended to repel the bone-chilling cold and eventually wandered outside, an even more unsettling sensation set in—I felt no attachment whatsoever to this city, neither where I live now (Gold Coast) nor where I lived before (loathsome Hyde Park—don't get me started).

That is, of course, not to say that there is no familiarity—one can hardly live in a place for more than a few weeks and not become accustomed to the sights, the sounds, and (unhappily) the smells unique to a particular locale. But attachment? That's a different story entirely. It is a feeling more visceral than intellectual: one of being home—of belonging—that pervades the interstices of one's mind as one enters and one of loss and yearning that one feels as one exits. I used to feel it each time I flew in or out of SFO or drove across the Bay Bridge. I definitely felt it when I was living in, and especially, leaving Berkeley. Hell, I even managed to become attached to New York, though perhaps not as strongly given the short time I spent there.

But Chicago? Never, despite all the time that has elapsed since I left San Francisco. Perhaps because I came with the intention of leaving, or perhaps for some unknown reason quite apart from that, it is simply a place to me—one, incidentally, that I happen to live in. That conclusion necessarily leads to yet another disturbing question: what, if not Chicago, is my home?

San Francisco? No. I have not lived there in years, and have no immediate plans to return. Berkeley? No, I was only there for college. The 'Vine? Hardly. I have not lived there in almost a decade. New York? Please. Six months in temporary housing over two summers is more a business trip than a home. So what then? Nothing? Nowhere?

Perhaps the aforementioned is simply a reflection of modern transience, a reality no more or less inevitable than the ambitions that drive that transience, the careers that require it, or the personal relationships that disintegrate because of it. But for some reason, cogitating on the subject today has left me in a strange mood. I cannot even articulate why having a sense of home is important or indeed relevant—what exactly do I want or am I missing? Stability? An end to liminality? An overwhelming desire to get on with my life? But why, and to what end?

As I embark upon my final two quarters of law school, and final six or so months in Chicago, it would probably behoove me to find out, lest the next place in which I find myself engenders no more feeling than did the last. But, sadly, I don't even know where to begin looking. At least it's something to brood about, though. There's always that. And on the Realm, that's often enough.


dude, i admit that listening to you bash on my homeland for 2 years has hurt (i still love you chi-town!), but i get what you're saying. i think most people in our generation that have chosen this grad school-transience-life-path feel the same way, no matter which city they happen to have chosen. i know i do.

are you a philosophy man? the germans are all about this "homelessness" business; been writing about it for centuries. if you're into it, i suggest heidegger, being and time, and hegel, lectures on the history of philosophy. they both deal with this pretty dope and untranslatable concept of "heimat," and "home," which i've really dug ever since i start learning german ( it is a pretty german-nationalist concept, but i still think its helpful for addressing issues of "rootedness" and how a person connects with her specific environment. check it out; it's some crazy shit.

Dude, this realization just hit you NOW? I've been feeling that way ever since we left Irvine! No real home... probably won't feel a sense of "home" again until we get married, buy a house, and have children.

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