I believe every person should feel they have a place to call “home," a location to escape to and feel comfortable in. Mine happens to be the place I am used to the most; where I played my saxophone and sang my Italian opera songs, where I could hide from the world by simply slamming the door. I am of course talking about my childhood bedroom.
Last weekend an Argentine friend invited me to his hometown in Roberts, Argentina. Population three thousand. It was a contrast to the bustling lifestyle of Buenos Aires where I have been living.
Roberts made me nervous. I just couldn’t settle in. It was so peaceful my mind began to wander from one trivial topic to the next and soon, instead of concentrating on the lovely Argentine chica bonita right in front of me, I began daydreaming about the place I know best: my childhood bedroom back in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
I’m lucky to have lived in that same house, down the same gravel road my entire life. My parents worked hard to meet the monthly mortgage and even when they divorced and it wasn’t financially savvy for Mom to keep the house, she did. She told me that when I went away to college, knowing I had a place to come home to–a bedroom I could escape to and call my own would make the transition less traumatic. And, she was right.
Now, I sit eight thousand miles away in Buenos Aires in a room I call my own and yet, it still isn’t mine . Although I pay rent each month, and have lived other places, from a semester in Spain to a hot summer on the Beltway, I am still never “home." I don’t feel as if I can slam the door.
Everyone needs a place of their own, a door to slam shut. Caught up in the momentum of work and family, obligations, travel and play, we “freak," get scared, need comfort. Instead of slamming the door, we distract ourselves with routine; we stay in our invented frenzy, in our Buenos Aires, never admitting that need for solitude, that hunger for refuge. Maybe we don’t know we require it until we go to Roberts, where we are forced to have a moment to think about the “place" that puts us at ease and makes us feel relaxed.
It’s been some years since I last slept in my bedroom down that gravel road for an extended period of time. And even though the house is now rented out to strangers, I feel my bedroom still awaits me. At twenty-two I am more grateful now than ever for having this feeling. Too bad it takes some distance, physically and mentally, to attain it.
I believe every person should feel they have a place to call their own, be it their home state, an ice cream parlor they always hung out in, or that spot under the ledge in order to stay dry. The inescapable feeling one has knowing it awaits is serenity. This I do believe. Where is your place?
Writing my “This I Believe" essay was a time of self-reflection and a rollercoaster of emotions. It wasn’t a battle but rather stepping stones to learning more about whom I am and how I want to be as a person. I enjoy writing and find it to be my solace and a potential career as I enter into the workforce this summer. Writing forces me to get to know myself, to have some “Tony Time," as I tell my friends.
Taking on this essay put the spotlight on my interests and an opportunity to do what I enjoy. I hadn’t been thinking of writing this essay until last week when I heard “This I believe" for the first time via my computer in Argentina.
Reading some of the other essayists and being locked in during a rainstorm one afternoon, I thought sharing some of the reflections on being away from home would be good; not only for me, mentally, but for the listener in the United States and those expatriates elsewhere.
I never knew I needed a place to call “home" until recently. Finishing my seventeen years of study, from kindergarten through college, I was always doing something and staying busy. Now, although I am researching and experiencing a different culture, my time to reflect on who I am finally came knocking. I put it off long enough.
This essay enabled me to share my thoughts on the need of having a place to call my own. My hope is that it sparks a realization in others, regardless of age or job, to take time out and find their moment of solitude, their “place" to slam the door, if only for a minute. I think it will make better persons out of those who do as it does to me.
My family has been very supportive over the years. My father, a full-time salesman and part-time political activist (although the time spent on each is often reversed), and my mother, a public relations consultant for thirty years and part-time professor at the University of Prague, keep in close contact with me even though we form a triangle from three continents. My mother has especially been encouraging. From a young age I remember nestling under her arm while she read to me. Now the tables have turned and I am the one reading to her, and often what I have written.
I am a student majoring in Spanish and American Public Policy in the Lee Honors College at Western Michigan University. My love of travel and the unknown has always been a part of me. With an adoptive sister from India, I have been witness to new cultures, traditions, foods, and varying friends from around the world.
At the age of nineteen I received a grant to assist a geography professor in Merida, Mexico in a survey on post-consumer content and now, three years later, I find myself in Buenos Aires, Argentina interviewing students for my honors thesis. Whether I end up in broadcasting, writing, or into politics, I will live a life guided by my beliefs, and remembering to give myself a little “Tony Time" here and there.
Originally written for National Public Radio