As a child spending the best part of the summer on the outskirts of Chicago, the primary impression I had of the city itself was that it was a dark, dirty, dangerous place where people would clobber you as soon as look at you. I'm sure this came about after some occasion when my siblings and I asked about going to downtown Chicago, and one of our parents or grandparents very simply said, "it isn't safe," leaving our imaginations to work out the worst.
But this very neighborhood watch sign was at least equally important. I was scared to death of the bad guy on the sign, and imagined his bulldog-like profile lurking like a black hole behind trees and bushes even in our utopian little neighborhood.
(At the same time, of course, I felt some pride in spending my summers in proximity to such a great big, dangerous city.)
The first time I really changed perspectives was in high school, when the National Catholic Youth Choir took a side trip to Navy Pier during its tour in the Midwest. I had the time of my life with my choir buddies there.
Since then, I've had a few more opportunities to better acquaint myself with the city, and my conclusion is that it's a loud, friendly, complex, vibrant place. Its future looks bright. If I had a job downtown, I could imagine living quite contentedly among its venerable brick edifices and the masses of humanity moving in and around them.
In fact, at this point, three days after leaving my home of three years, Chicago, with its vast resources and larger numbers of Japanese speakers, seems like it could be a more comfortable fit than Minneapolis. But then, since I now have a couple of job prospects in the Twin Cities, I'm afraid Chicago might not be in my immediate future. Of course, what I keep finding myself thinking about is going "home" to Ikata. Then I recall that my home and desk and job are all in the hands of another person now, and I've lost my foothold there.
Ultimately, nowhere on Earth will ever feel exactly like home. I'm a big fan of an idea in C.S. Lewis's book The Last Battle, namely that when we get to Heaven, we will find that it is what we have been looking for and loving all our lives-- that everything we loved here on Earth will be like a reflection in a small handmirror, and entering Heaven will be more like turning around to find the glorious reality all around us. Then we will go "further up and further in."
Still, I'm a home-maker through and through-- and by that I mean that I have an innate need and skill to make the space around me as homelike and easy to attach oneself to as possible. There are few things so disagreeable to my mind as the prospect of merely passing through place after place, just inhabiting space so foreign and unrelated to oneself that one might as well be a drone or video game character, signifying nothing, needing nothing, feeling nothing.
At the moment I feel like a very unwilling rolling stone or fish out of water, but eventually the home-making process will start again.