The second essay of PMS: Meditations on the Post-Modern Syndrome chronicles one of the most painful challenges of my twenties, which has been learning how to invest enough of myself in a place so that it feels like home, without putting too much in and subsequently suffering the grief of the inevitable relocation. Not all of the measures I’ve resorted to have been successful; some have been downright laughable (the refusal to buy an iron being one)—all have been dead earnest.
People aware of my passion for travel find my obsession with home puzzling. How can someone so fascinated by space be so fixated on shelter? My answer is: the two manias are merely the opposite faces of the same coin.
I travel extensively, yes, but when I’m at home and not traveling, I rarely venture beyond the confines of a five mile radius. My whole life I’ve lived almost adjacent to where I’ve had to study, work, shop, relax and pray. Everything I’ve needed to live my daily life has been near to hand; I cannot bear the frictions of distance on a regular basis. The regularity and uniformity of my days and the intimacy and familiarity of my environs—all these things that I designate with the singular concept home–are what allow me to roam the world, to risk the strange, to brave the unknown. At the end of the day, knowing that I have sanctuary, somewhere, permits me to explore the abyss.
The challenge of contemporary life, however, is that the distinctions between what constitutes home and what constitutes being away are rapidly being effaced. If you live abroad, and even more to the point, if you have lived in many places abroad, then you are both at home and away—and then you are neither at home nor away.
But to return to the essay On Home, the only solution I’ve found—which is barely a solution at all—is to maintain a perpetual awareness that the present is all we ever truly have. And this means relating to whichever place we happen to be in as home, without holding anything back. There will be grief, yes, when the day of departure arrives, but grief is inevitable. There is no point in sacrificing the joys of the present in the attempt (always illusory) to dull the sufferings of the future.