“On a steaming hot evening in early September, we board a west-bound plane, where, in twenty-nine hours, we will next touch earth in China. As we rumble down the runway, as the nose angles upward, as we lift into the air, I already miss the lamplight glow next to our couch.”
Tsh Oxenreider, At Home in the World
When your friend Tsh Oxenreider writes a book and calls it At Home in the World and then asks you where you feel at home in the world, you might have to think about this for a day or seven.
The first place you think of is an obvious one. But the second? Well that second one takes you by surprise.
Cities all have their regular names, but often also have nicknames too: The Big Apple, Motor City, The Big Easy. Another name for Greensboro, the city in North Carolina where I live with my family, is the Gate City.
As is fitting with the name, there was a period of years where I believed Greensboro would be a gate for me, a necessary passageway I had to move through to get to where I wanted to go. I moved here for college and thought once I got my degree, I would peace out.
As it turns out, Greensboro is not a gate after all but more of a cul-de-sac, both figuratively and literally. I’ve stayed in Greensboro now for 20 years and we live on an actual cul-de-sac.
It took me a while to accept that this city is home.
We aren’t Charlotte with her pro team and sweet skyline.
We aren’t Raleigh, Durham, or Chapel Hill with the status of the capital city and/or college basketball royalty.
We aren’t Asheville with her cool artists and smokey mountains.
We aren’t even High Point, the little town twenty minutes to our west, who hosts the world twice a year for the Furniture Market (Joanna Gaines comes and calls it “Furniture Camp”).
I can’t even talk about how we don’t have coastline.
But what our city lacks by way of attractions, she makes up for in this: she is home.
Here in Greensboro, I feel at home in the world, and that counts for a lot.
During seasons when I am traveling, I feel my body physically relax when I finally recognize the landscape beneath the plane as it prepares to land, as I try to pick out from the air Hamilton Lake and the small city skyline and that tall bank near the Target.
When the plane touches down at our little airport, it’s like the ground rises up to meet me. Hello, you.
Of course I feel at home in the world here in Greensboro. It’s where my people are.
But when your friend asks you were you feel at home in the world, you might carry this question around with you a little past your own hometown.
If you find yourself on a treadmill for the first time in many months, you might tear up as you walk and jog and walk again because you realize that you finally feel at home in the world in your very own body, the one you’ve had this whole time, the one that gets you here and there everyday, the one where you live.
You might tear up because feeling at home in your body is not a given. It is not a guarantee.
You might tear up because it hasn’t always been this way and acceptance is a profound gift.
Tsh Oxenreider is the only person I know who makes traveling around the world with her family of five sound not only normal, but downright cozy. Her book, At Home in the World, is available now.
Where do you feel at home in the world? Tell us in the comments or share on your own blog, Instagram, or wherever and add it to Tsh’s website here: Where are you at home in the world?