“Close your eyes, tap your heels together three times, and think to yourself,
‘there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.'”
I would stay in Turkey to visit my partner and his family for three months.
Three months in a massive, crowded, noisy city which sharply contrasted from the quiet, sheltered life I’d grown up in and loved.
Three months of being overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety, curiosity, and admiration.
And when I returned to my quiet little town, I’d expected to appreciate the quiet living more than ever before. And I did.
There was a shift. An unsettled feeling within me that I couldn’t shake.
I wasn’t comfortable at home anymore.
Where was the variety, the excitement, the chaos?
Before I had traveled outside the US, I’d looked at my hometown with the assumption of “this is as good as it can get.”
But now, my eyes were set to a new filter: everything I saw now, I had somewhere else to compare it with:
“The traffic here is more peaceful than in Istanbul… But the drivers are less cautious as a result. They don’t respond to problems as fast here.”
“I like waking up to sweet birdsong here, rather than the crows and honking cars of the city.”
“The food in Turkey is so much better than American food.”
“Why are we all wearing our outside shoes inside?!”
But here’s the thing: I didn’t feel a longing to move to Istanbul. I didn’t miss everything about Turkish culture or big city life.
In fact, if I were to choose which feels more like home, I still would have chosen my small town in a heartbeat.
Only now, I wasn’t satisfied with it.
There is a special word for such a feeling. One which you won’t find in any dictionary besides that of John Koenig’s “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.”
This word is “ozurie.”
He describes it as that feeling that Dorothy must have felt upon returning home from Oz. That “maddening state of tension, trying to live in two worlds at once.”
“Which will it be—Kansas or Oz?”
“Do you plunge into a Technicolor riot of what might be, harsh and delirious and confusing? Or do you accept the humble beauty of ordinary life, where nothing ever changes and everything is simple?“
“…Soon enough, life will offer you an answer. But for the moment, you are like Dorothy, sitting up in her bed, trying to decide which pair of slippers she wants to wear today. Black or ruby? Black or ruby?”
My sense of where “home” is hadn’t just moved from one place to another.
It became scattered, to a point where neither option could satisfy me completely.
There was no moving anywhere to fix the feeling.
I was determined to wait for this discomfort to fade. I needed it to fade.
I needed to feel at home again.
I wasn’t Dorothy, dreaming of traveling over the rainbow.
I was a homebody.
A mousey, introverted, socially-anxious homebody.
I wanted to feel at home without having to face the new, the foreign, the unexpected.
As I waited, I tried to satisfy this discomfort.
I dyed my hair red.
I rescued ferrets to take care of and give a luxurious life.
I turned the music in my car loud, and sang my frustration into the night.
But after nearly a year, that feeling hadn’t faded.
And there were new problems.
The immigration process for my partner to come here would prove more time-demanding and dispiriting than we’d counted on. Not to mention the racism he’d faced by my countryfolk in his short visits here still burned painfully (and embarrassingly) in my mind.
So it was time to decide: What if I go there instead?
And within one month of that question, I was back on that plane to Istanbul.
This time, with a one-way ticket.