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My home town, November 5, 2004, 7:00 am


Home. What is home? Is it the small rural town in Austria where I grew up, the town that I left now more than 18 years ago? Or is it Toronto, the Metropolis, in whose bowels I have been living in for almost 2 decades?

“Home” is a strange notion. I guess “home” is where you feel you belong, where you feel most at peace. That’s probably the closest definition of “home” that I can come up with.

I have spent the last 2 days around my hometown, taking care of some business issues, having meetings with people, dropping in on old friends, school mates, my old school, connecting with some of my old teachers.

View of my home town.

It’s a strange experience. The place feels so familiar, but it has changed so much. Even the visual appearance of my home town has changed to the degree that the downtown area is hardly recognizable. People have changed, gone grey, gotten bigger, shrunk, faces have become more wrinkled, visible signs of aging have set in. Certainly more with some people than with others. You hear of deaths, yesterday I found out that one of my former teachers, one of my favourite ones, passed away barely a year after retirement.

I have sat down with people for conversations, and there is a definite sense of groundedness, of agrarian pride, of being connected with the countryside, with nature around them. Many people eat more naturally; appreciate the fruits of the earth that surrounds them. Much more so than in the expansive megalopolis of Toronto, where people are much more removed from the natural environment around them and go to the supermarket for super-processed food.

Rural landscapes close to my home town.

There are also other conversations. Conversations about regretting past decisions, missed opportunities, barriers to doing what one really would have wanted to do. Whether we are talking about career decisions, relationship decisions, major life decisions,… I guess that’s not surprising, since people all over the world start questioning their earlier choices in mid life and later life.

What strikes me as different in some of these conversations is the sense of irrevocability and resignation. “Well, that’s just the way life is”, “That’s how it goes around here”, “You can’t change it now.”, “There is just nothing you can do about it, you just have to grin and bear it”. That sense of resignation and fatalism has made an appearance in various discussions with a variety of people that I have had in the last few days.

Being the dreamer that I am, the person that always sets out to capture a new inspiration, to pursue a new idea, to start something else up, this way of thinking strikes me as very foreign. Maybe there is a difference when you live overseas, that the “American (or to a lesser degree, the Canadian) way of thinking” rubs off on you, that “everything is possible”. Or at least you make yourself believe that.

All I can say is, as a person who’s gone out into the world and made a few things happen according to her own ideas, this sense of fatalism and resignation is strange to me and it makes me a little sad. Sad about the fact that people with talents, ideas and aspirations have given up striving for what they would really like to do, how they would really like to live. Sometimes I think it’s the small-town environment that imposes these barriers, whether they are real or perceived.

So for this dreamer, Toronto - the metropolis, where many people believe that many things are possible, the big city with its diversity, its ethnic quarters, its broad entertainment offerings, its diverse and easily accessible adult education opportunities, its 3 universities and countless other academic institutions, with all its overcrowding, pollution, road rage and urban sprawl, the street people, graffiti-covered underpasses, this metropolis of Toronto, that has given me the chance to become the woman that I needed to become, that’s where my home is.

Related articles:
Read about the almost surreal experience of my 20th high school reunion
My reflections as a new writer kept me up in the middle of the night
Read about my travel preparations for this trip to Austria
For practical information visit my country travel guide on Austria

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