The Old Apartment, Remix
Take note, kids: Being an adult is hard.
Let’s skip all of the job-working, bill-paying, retirement-planning, and other such real-world goings on of adulthood for a moment, and talk about simple choosing. The regular readers (assuming I have any left…) will know that this is something I struggle with on a daily basis. Little things, like where to go for dinner with the Scatterbrained Seminarian, paralyze me. It’s a problem. Last August, my lease in Cleveland Heights expired, my roommate left to move in with her girlfriend, and I was faced with what should have been an impossible decision: where should I live? And, by some miracle, I made a choice. And it seemed like an obvious one: return to Parma, the place where most of my friends live, and which I have thought of as home, even through moves to Strongsville, Cleveland proper, and Cleveland Heights.
The story behind my thoughts of Parma as home is long and complicated, and not every part of it paints me in the best, most sane-looking light. It will suffice to say that I adore Parma. It’s where I really started to grow into who I am today, during that magic pre-teen time when you start to do things without your parents, and start to make your home your own. Long weekend afternoons wandering through neighborhoods and getting lost on your bike in unfamiliar places. So for me, Parma as home started in that very innocent and usual place, and it became…an obsession.
If, as a kid, you ever had the experience of moving to a new city, then you know how traumatic that can be. Being uprooted from your school, and your friends, and your familiar grocery stores and neighborhoods is nothing short of earth-shaking. Of all the moves I’ve ever done, the one in which we had to leave Parma is the most memorable. And for a long time after that, I was consumed by getting back to that place.
Here’s a story about how I’m a crazy person: we lived in a “216” area code in Cleveland, and most of Parma is “440”. The entire time we lived in Cleveland, I dialed “216” before every local number, because I refused to acknowledge “216” as home. “440” was home, and it always would be. So yeah. Obsessed.
And now I’m back, and what I’ve realized is that home is more complicated than my obsessive teenage self tried to make it. Because here I am, in Parma again, and I’m still asking myself questions about home.
For New Year’s Eve, the Scatterbrained Seminarian and I went to hang out with her sister in Coventry, the very neighborhood I left in August. It was wonderful. Aside from just being a really fun evening, it was so good to be back. To see the old street and revisit my old haunts. When we walked into the B Side, we were immediately greeted with flutes of champagne, delivered by none other than our favorite bartender and barista, who had poured Rachel and I beer or lattes so many times when I lived out there. It was like a dream. Even the next morning, my hungover walk to Marc’s to get some Powerade was full of happy memories and pleasant feelings. It felt good to be back home.
But it was disruptive, too. Because Parma is supposed to have been home. So what the hell was I supposed to do with that?
I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the past two weeks, and what I’ve figured out is that home is what you make it, especially as an adult. It’s not always about where you live, but it is always about what you choose. For me, that journey has, for a long time, been about a return to something…wonderful. That’s what Parma has always been for me. The idyllic land of my teenage years and early adulthood.
You know what? Shit happens. Things change. And you can’t go home. They’re clichés, but they’re true.
That notion is bittersweet for me, because part of me does want, on a very deep level, to return to that magical time and place. Play in the Metroparks with my brother. Eat my mom’s meatloaf in our Parma apartment. Go see my friend’s band in some crappy dive bar. Cram for a music theory exam with my friends.
But the rest of me knows that that isn’t home. It’s a part of me, and it always will be. But my home now is my own apartment in Parma. Seeing movies with my brother. Going up to Cleveland to see my family. Friday night dinners with friends. The wedding plans that the Scatterbrained Seminarian and I are making. And my growing sense of adventure.
I love Parma, and I think I always will. But I don’t love it because it’s the unchanging thing that exists in my memory. You can’t go home to a place and a time that don’t exist anymore, and the longer you try, the worse off you’ll be. Because when you cling to the idea of that ephemeral, static, Shangri-la of a home, you cheat yourself out of the real home, which is the one you make for yourself every day.
That was maybe a little…declamatory for my first time back. In any case, thank you, as always, for reading.
More to follow.