For a season that is usually defined by stasis, my winter has been active—life changing, even: I went home for the first time in a year for nearly two weeks at Christmas. When I left New York I was soon to be unemployed, when I returned I had a new job in a completely different industry.
Georgia will always be home; it is my family seat, and to sit with my mom, younger brother, and dog and watch movies and simply eat a meal together as if we had never been apart is always a wonderful thing. We even took a trip down to Andalusia, the home of writer Flannery O’Connor, in Milledgeville, Georgia, which was unbearably beautiful and heartbreaking all at once. After moving to New York as a young woman, Flannery was forced to return to Georgia when she was diagnosed with Lupus, the same disease that killed her father. She was nursed by her mother, took care of Peacocks and other exotic fowl, and managed to write some pretty incredible short fiction and a few novels before she passed away shortly before her fortieth birthday.
But Flannery was salty and whip smart, and she managed to write despite her depressing situation. She wrote hilarious letters to her close friends and corresponded seriously with her fans about her Catholicism and the meaning of her fiction. I should find Flannery’s biography an inspiration, but being a girl from Georgia, standing at her gravesite, I couldn’t help but find the whole story of her life damnably sad.
Milledgeville is a beautiful town, not unlike the sort of small towns you’d expect to have seen thirty, even fifty years ago in rural America. The buildings are pre-war and gorgeous, the college unassuming and necessary, the people simple and quiet. Milledgeville’s one quirk, perhaps, is that right outside downtown there lies the mostly defunct sanatorium and mental institution, an early Bedlam for the ill and deranged (but most likely just strange) people who were sent to Milledgeville to live here from all over middle-Georgia. The beautiful brick buildings that once housed medical wards and dormitories for the tubercular and the mentally ill still stand empty, like abandoned castles on the hill. It’s a melancholy and foreboding place.
The South can also be ignorant, rude, and plainly disappointing. The simple experience of going to see a movie (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) a few days after Christmas can be ruined by a few high-school age children. Bleach blonde hair is scarce, and apparently an allowance to stare me down, openly, as if I were some wolf amongst sheep in the Roswell mall. The point, however, is this: I don’t go home to Georgia to take in its culture (although it can be fascinating, like Milledgeville’s) or its local color. I go to spend time with my family.
What I’m getting at here is a definition of home. I made the decision, a long, long time ago that I wanted to live in New York. Ask my mother. I made the decision when I was a little girl. But that decision was one made on hearsay and whim. It wasn’t until I had lived here for about five months, completely on my own, knowing not a soul, abandoned by my partner, without a job from Daddy to pay my bills, or a trust fund to secure my wellbeing that I made the absolute decision to live in New York. I made that decision when I was at the lowest of the low, when I felt the worst I have ever felt, when the only thing I really wanted to do was to flee as soon as I could to my mother’s open arms.
These are perhaps difficult feelings for native New Yorkers, or anyone who’s never lived a plane-ride away from home to understand. New York can be brutal. There are days when it literally kicks the shit out of me. I have wept on the subway from both physical and emotional exhaustion. I have run out of money, been laid-off, been thrown out with the trash, been belittled, underappreciated, insulted, and even scorned. And all the while I have persevered, wracking my brain, hoping to discover what the hell it is I want out of life and what the hell I need to do to get it.
And damn you, if you discourage anyone from doing what makes them happy or if you begrudge a person for taking their time to do it own their own. The process is what’s important. I may not love every minute of every freezing morning I haul my ass out of bed at seven a.m. and go to work, but I sure as hell appreciate the luck I have, especially since I’ve made it myself.
Obviously, this is all still a work in progress. But winter is a difficult season for me. I don’t deal well with snow and its frigid temperatures. The climate makes me want to pull the covers over my head and never leave my apartment. But on a night like this, when a plane went diving into the Hudson River and all 155 passengers somehow appeared on its wings, unscathed, and I watched the whole ordeal take place from my office window, I have to think there must be some sort of natural order to life. That every step I take is an indication that I am still walking.