March 4, 2016


How does the heart know what it wants?
How does it know where - with whom - to put down roots?

I started a new rotation this week - Gyn Oncology at the cancer center. The fellow there is a fellow (hah) Midwesterner from Indiana, who studied in Chicago and in July is moving to St. Louis to do fellowship at WashU. I have found myself awash in Midwest sensibilities and longing for tastes of home. I want to be where they say y'all, where The Lake means one particular place, where the Star Spangled Banner ends in "and the home of the Chiefs!" I want to be where people are nice, and polite, and value each other. I want to be where people know how to sew a hem and bake a casserole, where people go to church (even if I don't believe and don't go) and meet their neighbors and go hunting and have gardens.

Am I missing something I never had? We never knew our neighbors growing up, don't be ridiculous. We each kept to our own backyards. I wasn't raised on a farm; I only went hunting with my father once or twice; but somehow these are things I can cling to, the things that tell a story about who I am and where I come from. Like knowing how biscuits and gravy is made, and even more so - understanding why it's the best breakfast food.

I like Philadelphia just fine - it's a great city. It's fun to be around, fun to live in. Part of me wants to boast that there's tons of culture here, but that's an empty sentence. Residency has been too busy for me to enjoy much of it - though I've been to bars and restaurants aplenty.

But Philadelphia is not where I am from. I am not of this place. My ancestors did not know this town. True, my father's father came from New Jersey - but even still, every other branch of my family is buried deep under Missouri soil. For some reason, those trips when we visited relatives and always included a pass by the graves of loved ones call to me - how do you know your own story if you forget who came before you? Mark Twain and hot, humid summers balance out ice storms and temperamental seasons in my blood. I can handle snow and I can handle heat. I know about caves and rolling fields of corn and soybeans and dozens of creeks and rivers for float trips.

When I think about the future, my liberal preferences are seductive, enticing me to stay here in a blue bubble surrounded by supportive, like-minded people. But my heart says that my home needs me, that there will never be a type of people I understand better than those stubborn Missourians who insist that you "Show Me" proof of what you say.

Maybe I'll never feel at home until I go back. For now, I'm just a little homesick.