No Place Like Home

August was a busy, confusing time for me. I decided to move to California, resigned from my job, started to pack up my half of the apartment. Then I changed my mind.

I did go home for some time, to pretend I know how to take a break. I arrived to California without hair and BYP 100’s Unapologetically Black hat on my head. The youngest child is always a rebel, right?

My sisters dislike my haircut, though they assure me I have a nice head. They didn’t imagine I would show up bald. You can see hair. Not enough. Like I wanted.

I often forget who I am within the context of family. My opinions don’t matter much, which is fine since most of them are not that great. But I tend to feel more at loss when I am home in Richmond.

My dad was so excited to see me without hair, he took his cap off to show off his bald head. “Twins!” He exclaimed. He likes to parade me around the neighborhood. A walk to the corner store for snacks takes longer than it should; he stops everyone he knows for introductions, “This is my daughter, the writer. You see her in the paper!”

The men in the store point at the small headshot of me with a giant smile and another buzzcut, next an op-ed about queerness, about black bodies, about abolition. They don’t read the words, neither do my family members, but they smile, “This is you? You are great.”

This entire trip has reminded me of Sandra Cisneros’ essay, “No Place Like Home,” which you can find in A House of My Own. In this essay about home and family, she writes, “I know for myself I can’t go back home in that place where I was raised except through stories, spoken or on paper.” I didn’t want this to be true for me, but it is.

This place is part of me. There are parts I thought/hoped I rejected but it is in my blood. There’s no denying, I’m sure I wouldn’t want that now. It is hard to let go. It is not in my nature to accept change without a suspicion or hesitation. I thought I was going to move back; I sent out a Tinyletter, posted on Facebook, even went as far as submitting a resignation letter. Thankfully my bosses love me and HR moves slowly, the letter was tossed in the trash. My family dealt with the compromise: a month-long visit in between my employment contracts.

Looking at my books put away in boxes for yet another time saddened me. I knew I wouldn’t move to a place of my own and I would have to rely on others. It’s true I am too independent for my own good, but my feelings made sense for the adult who has lived on their own for years and have to return home to figure out the next step. Sometimes it’s a choice we make, sometimes it’s the only viable option. Fortunately I have options, I need to push myself to choose them. I’m working on it.

The boxes in my living room were emptied as soon as I decided not to move. I know I need to be in Richmond more, so I will plan to do that. I will make the necessary sacrifices to make sure I have the money to come as needed. Everyone asks me if I am happy, does Chicago make me happy. The city helps with making me me, that’s all I can say for now. Some people light up when they hear about what I do, how I have a storytelling series and share my words with strangers. I am told over and over “keep doing you, keep doing what you love.”

In the same essay Cisneros writes, “Sometimes we need permission, encouragement, someone to fill our heart with desire, because without desire you can’t invent anything.” It is easy to forget how true that is. Having the permission to create has lifted weight off my shoulders.