Friday, November 16, 2012

Guest Post Series: Andrew Wilber

Guys, I am way pumped to be starting our guest post series about Home.  And, I'm especially excited to begin with this post from Andrew Wilber.  He and I met in college and got to share a few conversations, but I started to know him more through reading his blog after graduating.  He writes very well as he shares life and talks about topics that broaden my world.  (I usually feel smarter after reading his blog.)  I especially appreciate this post here; the conclusion he comes to leaves me with such a good and full sigh.

"Strange Places That Feel Like Home"
by Andrew Wilber

Once in college I volunteered to help out with a video to promote the campus-wide community service event that my school held on MLK Day every year. As usually seems to happen when I volunteer for things, “help out” quickly turned into write, direct and produce with very little oversight or assistance from anyone. One thing they did give me was the music that was intended to go with the project. It was really good actually. A song by The Apache Relay titled Home Is Not Places (it is love) that fit really well with the mood of the whole piece. It also kind of reminded me of this song that they sang on the 90s TV version of Madeline that my sister loved when she was about six. That one went: “Home is where the heart is.”

With all admiration and respect for Madeline and The Apache Relay, I have to disagree. Sorta.

For me, the idea of home is very much tied to places. Specific places. And while the experiences and emotions I have with and for people in those places are a huge part of what makes them home, the places themselves still feel like home for me––even if I return to them years down the road when I’ve changed and everyone I knew there is gone.

My family’s farm in Pennsylvania where I’ve spent most of my life is the place I generally identify as “home” if someone asks me, and even though a GIANT part of that is my family being there, there’s also more than that. I feel that most strongly when I’m walking through the woods there by myself. The same woods I walked through by myself so many times when I was a little kid, a teenager––and now. Even though I’ve changed, it’s still a place that feels like home.

The woods near home in Pennsylvania

The strangest experience I’ve ever had with that feeling wasn’t at my family’s place though. It was coming back to Saints Bible Institute, a little school in a little town in northern Italy where I spent a semester my sophomore year of college. 

I often refer to SBI as “my first time away from home.” But SBI would also become a place that felt like home to me. While I was there I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had, and in a way, saw and experienced the world for the first time and realized that it wasn’t all as bad as I had felt through most of my teenage years. Leaving was one of the hardest goodbyes in my life, and I knew that while I was there it had felt like home. But I didn’t realize how much it had started to feel like home until two years later.

It was summer of 2011, and I was in the middle of an internship in Beirut, Lebanon. That was a crazy, wonderful time in its own way, but by the end my second month, I was pretty exhausted and starting to get homesick. Bizarrely though, the place I was homesick for wasn’t my “home” in Pennsylvania. It was SBI in San Lorenzo, Italy, where I knew I would be dropping in on my way back to the States for my internship debrief. I don’t think I realized how much it felt like coming home, though, until I’d landed in Venice, been picked up by Jesse, one of the staff, driven to the school and looked out at the vineyards that surround the town. It felt like I was home. How weird is that? A few years before could I ever have thought a strange place in another country could feel like home?

The roof of the apartment in Beirut

Of course, it’s kind of relative probably. If I were to go somewhere completely different for a few months and then come back to Beirut, to the high-rise apartment where I lived with my wonderful host family, that would probably feel like home too.

And the fact is, coming back to SBI did feel strange. Being there without the people that I’d grown so close with two years before was a weird feeling. Almost saddening if I let myself focus on it too much. It felt like home, but something that I couldn’t quite grasp or articulate was missing.

Behind the SBI building in Italy

So I guess my conclusion––if there is one––is that home is love, and home is people. But for me at least, home is also places.

I think that’s what C.S. Lewis was getting at (among many other things that are probably more important and over my head) in The Last Battle when he spends a long time describing what he imagines heaven is like. In the book, it’s a place with all the characters you’ve come to love throughout the series, and all the people they’ve ever loved. But it also has all of the places. Anywhere that meant something to someone who is present is present as well, be it the mansion where the characters first entered the book’s fantasy world, a garden, a town or even a whole country. 

I don’t know if Lewis got it right, but I certainly hope that’s what heaven will be like. Until then we’ll all just have to be satisfied with a lot of strange places that feel like home.

To read more of Andrew's thoughts, head over to his blog, "Oh Where To Begin."

1 comment:

  1. The woods near Andrew's home look magical!

    x Jasmine


Thank you for sharing your thoughts! If there is something you want me to respond to specifically, feel free to send me an email; I'd love to chat.