“How long have you lived in the US?”
“Well, let’s see. For 4 years from 3 to age 7 in Davis, CA. Then 1 year when I was 14, again in CA, but this time in Irvine. Then 3 years while getting my MA and MEd in NY, from 24 to 27. And then this time around. I moved to NYC in late December of 2004, when I was 32, to get my doctorate, and then moved to Chicago in 2010, but haven’t really left the US yet. So that’s, 4, 1, 3, and now almost 7, so almost 15 years I’ve lived in this country all together. This last time has definitely been the longest I’ve lived here in one stretch.”
And then it kinda hit me. I knew when I moved to NYC the second time around, I would not go back home when I was done. I had applied for a F1 student visa, instead of a J1; I paid for my studies this time, instead of having a scholarship from a Venezuelan Governmental agency; I made sure I had no ties back to Chavez because I didn’t want to be caught again in the situation of having to go back, if I didn’t want to. I did all of that consciously, because I knew that eventually I wanted to stay in the US. And yet, realizing that this time around has been the longest I’ve lived in this country continuously, gave me a little pause.
I have no plans of moving back to Venezuela. Ever since my parents sold everything, including their beautiful house in Caracas, and moved to Miami back in 2010, I have no home to go back to. Sure, my extended family is still there: aunts, uncles, cousins and my only living grandparent (Tata), and some of my high-school and college friends are still there too, though mostly they live all around the world now. Yet, I don’t have a home to go back to. Not any more.
Now when I think of home, my adult-life home, I think of New York. When things get a little harder, or sadder, or just plain uncomfortable here, and I want to go home, I think of going back to NY. My parent’s new place in Miami is nice, but it’s not home to me. I’ve never lived there, and despite the major efforts my mom makes almost daily to get to move to there, Miami is not home to me.
People ask me if I’ll stay in Chicago forever. And my answer usually is: I don’t know. The truth is I’ve never been anywhere forever, and the longest I’ve lived in the same city for one continuous stretch, has been 9 years, from age 15 to 24, during high-school and college in Caracas. So forever, at my modest 39 years of age (I turn 40 this October!!!!), has never really existed as a possibility even.
Will forever happen now? Will I stay here for the rest of my life, which I’m thinking will be another 30 to 40 years? Who knows? What I do know is I will probably (and I say probably because who really knows) never go back to live in Venezuela again. The US, whether I stay in Chicago or not (move back to NYC baby!), will probably be my home for the rest of my life. And to be truthful, I don’t know how I really feel about that yet.
Sometimes it seems sad, like a part of my life came to an end, and I want to mourn it and cry a little. Other times it is what it is, and I don’t even think about it, kind of in a neutral mode of sorts. And yet others, it’s a happy thing, the past is behind me, this is the present with an endless possibility filled future, and I feel happy here, with how things are now.
It dawned on me last night though, as I walked to the garage at work to get my car and drive home, that this could be it. Is it for sure? I don’t know. Could it be? Maybe, I guess. Although, knowing my track record, I really doubt it. Moving seems to be written in bold letters in the map of my life. It seems to be the common denominator. I do think I will be here for a while though. I have no plans to move to another state anytime soon, so I’m staying put. But is it forever? Really, how could I know? I could say yeah, sure, but as the saying goes “We make plans, and God just laughs.” So, is it forever? Yeah, for sure, maybe, and probably not. How’s that for an answer?