And where the heart is of course.
I, Ilyanna, absolutely concur with Dorothy (Wizard of Oz) when she said that “there’s no place like home.”
On a humid and warm Sunday October morning, I left Florida and traveled west for five hours across the sky. Once I reached San Diego from Orlando, it was a short 50 minute flight to Phoenix, and then I was home. The announcements to “put upright our tray tables and stow all large electronic devices as we begin our initial descent” was music to my ears and butterflies invaded tummy as I looked out my window below and saw the familiar desert and mountains beneath me. All I could do was smile and try to fight back happy tears as I was nearing so close to familiarity and the love of my family and friends.
Throughout these past few months in Orlando, I’ve had a couple quick episodes of homesickness. Not necessarily for Arizona or Tucson even, but for my family. I missed being able to go to my dad’s after work and update him on my life; I missed lounging on the couch with my nana and Grandpa watching their shows and eating the best food of my life; I missed coming to my mom’s to spill all of my problems if needed and her reassuring me (in person) everything would be okay; I missed the delicious Mexican food of El Molinitos and spending time with my crazy homies; And finally, believe it or not– I missed the dry heat. Florida is hot like AZ, but take heat and add humidity and you have a sweaty disaster.
I spent a whole four months across the planet, 7,000 miles away, living in China last year– and I rarely got homesick. So why does homesickness come so frequently in Florida? Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter now, because I’m home. My soul has been brought back to life with the love and comfort of my family and the familiarity of Arizona. It was last week when I felt especially down that my mom told me she’d get me the soonest ticket out from Florida to Arizona. The gratitude I felt made me want to cry and I knew I could finish out the rest of the week knowing my soul would be recharged so soon.
So come October 10, I landed in the Sonoran desert and got picked up my mum and brother from the airport. We drove the 1.5 hour drive to Tucson and then I got dropped off at my nana’s house. Again, I succeeded in fighting back my happy tears when I walked through the door (when the hell did I get so emotional?). There, we had a small birthday dinner get-together with my nana’s beans, rice, calabasitas, and peppered steak. Because I’ve only been eating macaroni and cheese, ramen, and fruit the few prior days before coming here, my tummy was in absolute heaven. Just spending time with the people I’ve grown up with and have showered me with love for almost 21 years was a true treat and I was clearly able to see how much I really needed this trip home.
It was like nothing had changed. Sitting at my nana’s kitchen table and eating her mouth-watering food surrounded by family was normal. I felt as though I had never even left. It felt like I didn’t even ever move, that I didn’t even have my own complex life in Florida, and that this is where I have always been. How can I be gone for two whole months, creating a life of my own across the country, only to come back and it feel like the last two months were non-existent?
Because that’s what home is supposed to look like.
When I first got back from China last year, I was upset that home still felt the same. I had gone across the world, traveled around China, and had an experience that completely changed the way my life was originally going and I changed immensely as a person; then, when I came home, everything still felt the same. I had changed, but Arizona didn’t– and that made me mad. Almost a year later, I have finally discovered that it’s because that is what home is supposed to feel like. Home is supposed to be a place you can go to for familiarity and comfort; therefore, it’s not supposed to ever change. Yes, there may be some physical or structural changes that make home a little different while youre gone, but it’s the feeling you experience in your mind and heart when you’re there that will always remain the same. Home is a place you can leave for however long, but once you return, it will always feel like you never even left. For that, I am finally grateful.
I’m proud and happy to be from Tucson, Arizona. I may have left for a while to China, to Florida, and soon I’ll be leaving to Mexico, but Arizona will always be my home– no matter how far or long I may wander off to and for. That’s why I got my little AZ state outline tattoo this past year, because it holds that special of a place in my heart.
Since I’ve been home, I had my early birthday dinner at my nana’s house. The next day, I went to lunch with my mom, brother, and aunt (at El Molinitos of course!!), visited my dad and my pups at his house, went to the pumpkin patch with some of my friends, and spent time and went to dinner with more friends later that night. Today is another family day, and I’m having a birthday lunch/dinner with my mom’s side of the family now and then stopping by my dad’s and nana’s one more time before I fly back out to Florida tomorrow. My time here was short, but 100% and entirely necessary– and it made for the perfect start to my 21st birthday week! I get back to Orlando on Wednesday night. Thursday morning I’ll be celebrating my roommates birthday, and then my own a day early in the afternoon at Magic Kingdom before running off to the airport at night once again to fly to New York City to meet my favorite person in the world to celebrate my 21st birthday.
Thanks mum for bringing me home, even just for a couple days, and recharging my soul.