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By Ryan

Talking Heads – “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)”

LCD Soundsystem – “All My Friends”

I should start by admitting that the idea of home can be a bit of an abstract concept.  While most of what I’m writing about here pertains to the technical definition of home as a geographic area, the modern idea of home often refers to a state of mind or being that may be completely unattached from any physical location.  Home is a friend’s laugh, a lover’s arms, or “where you make it.”  Try as I might, I’ve never been able to fully think of home this way, and I think that’s part of my trouble in finding it.

All the holiday travel tends to highlight the issue for me, as I’m sure it does for many others in the post-college-pre-marriage-and-kids crowd.  It seems like most everyone I know fits in to one of three broad categories and their subcategories:

1: Hometown

1A: People who never thought to leave (or never had the opportunity)

1B: People who always planned on going back

1C: People who realized that they wanted to go back

2: Major or mid-major city in close proximity to one’s hometown

2A: People who don’t want to go too far from friends/family

2B: People whose work requires them to live somewhere other than their hometown

2C: People who realized they wanted to go back to their hometown, but can’t deal with the stigma of being a lifer

3: Somewhere completely different

3A: People who want to get away from their friends/family

3B: People whose work requires them to live far away from their hometown

3C: People who travel, move a lot, are in the military/a band/a cult, secret agents

In some weird way, these categories almost function as a spectrum, where the higher one moves in the grouping, the more success one is thought to have professionally and/or academically, but, conversely, the lower one moves in the groupings, the more comfortable one is with their place in the world, both geographically and socially.  There’s a reason the most popular kids from your high school act like they still own the town while the most interesting and ambitious ones are almost embarrassed to be seen there, and it almost certainly has to do with the perceptions related to these distinctions of place.

I’m not advocating that either of these views are completely accurate, but they certainly do hold some nugget of truth in my own life, and I’ve been a 1C, a 2A, a 2B, a 3A, and a 3B in the last five years.  I’d love to have grown up somewhere that made me feel solidly in the 1 camp, I’d be happy if my career goals allowed me in the 2 squad, but right now I’m a 3 who misses the best parts of the first two while enjoying the opportunities afforded by his current position.  This makes it hard to ever feel completely at home, but I know that being anywhere else would pose other issues that would likely leave me feeling the same way.  It’s a weird stage in life, but I’ll get through it, and, when I do, I’ll exchange stories with you about how silly we were looking for some abstract idea in such specific places.

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By Ryan

“If you could be anything you want, I bet you’d be disappointed, am I right?”

-Isaac Brock, Modest Mouse, on The Moon and Antartica’s “Lives”

I’ve been thinking about dreams, hopes, goals, and aspirations a lot lately, and, honestly, it’s been a bit of a drag.  So many people I know have goals that are so simple, it’s hard to imagine why they would even call them “dreams.”  But even my own desires, which would seem beyond realistic to some, are things that I fully expect to achieve in my lifetime, and therein lies the issue.  The above quote, in addition to being some clever wordplay, summarizes the problem with dreams that are accomplishable.

I think everyone, no matter their level of ambition, has a small, sinking feeling inside of them as it relates to what it will feel like to get everything you ever wanted, do everything you ever wanted to do, and be around the people you always wanted to be around.  We all know, instinctively, that no matter the scope of our individual dreams, there’s a huge pile of uncertainly and purposelessness on the other side.  If you don’t realize this, then you’re just not being honest with yourself.

It’s fine if your dream is truly something like learning another language, taking a certain trip, or going to a certain school.  But the problem with dreams that just require us to do them is that we reach the other side too quickly, forcing us to find new dreams or become depressed.  And it’s the same with big dreams that require everything to line up just so; if it happens for you once in your life, you’ll never be satisfied until it happens every time.

Here’s the caveat: our dreams can be anything we want them to be.  Since I know that my individual dreams will likely lead to disappointment, or at least a slight feeling of emptiness, maybe my dreams should be beyond the scope of me.  It’s a terribly cliché example, but someone like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was able to have the drive and passion he did because his dreams were beyond what he could accomplish.  Maybe by setting our sights on the world at large, we can pursue our own dreams with a higher sense of purpose.

It’s true that “the world needs dreamers,” but, more accurately, the world needs the right kind of dreamers.

By Anna

On Tuesday and Thursday I take the metro from Votosmarty U. to Battyany ter. No one makes extended eye contact with me, a quick glance and then look away. Barely an acknowledgement of your existence, just a concentration on going from A to B. I think my mom and sister would fit in here, I however, am extrinsic and feed off of smiles and friendly nods of hello.

The parliament building from castle hill

The parliament building from castle hill

As the escalator surfaces at Battyany ter. a church with green copper steeples emerges into view. You can turn around after stepping off of the escalator and see the magnificently gothic parliament building. I walk one block down, ring number 51 and say hello to Ilona, my language teacher. She let’s me in and I take the elevator to the fifth floor (though sixth for us in the United States because the first floor here is the ground level). The elevator doors are manual and this I forget everytime.

During my lesson we sit in chairs facing the parliament building. I ask Ilona why Hungarians do not make eye contact or say hello. She does not understand me initially. I explain further, that in the United States people may nod or say hello in passing. She nods and says it is a cultural difference and that it is only a surface thing and that young people are not like this. She tells me to go to Godot ter. where the young people are.

Though I understand the cultural difference, I still do not know why. That afternoon I learn about Hungary’s last 50 years while at The Terror Museum. The Nazis invaded, the Soviets invaded and they clashed in the middle of Hungary, who only wanted to remain neutral. But Hungary doesn’t joke about knowing how to bury their dead without reason—hundreds of thousands were killed and deported during WWII and for years after. 200,000 Jews left, 11,000 have returned since.

Faces of those who died from 1944-1967 from The Terror Museum

Faces of those who died from 1944-1967 from The Terror Museum

The Soviets won and during their occupation (1944-1991) if anyone made eye contact with a Soviet guard they could be under suspicion and would be taken away to the cellar prison of the Hungarian Arrow Cross Government (Communist) on Andrassy U.

Hungarians were trained to avoid eye contact for decades. I had guessed that the reason for avoiding eye contact was the fear of intimacy, but it was actually a cultured fear of abuse or death from a culture (the U.S.S.R.) that has had centuries of abuse itself.

Fear and internalization continues in Eastern Europe, but today, Hungarians celebrate 20 years of freedom from the Iron Curtain (1989) with passivity and pride.

By Ashlee

I wrote this poem because I grew so tired of trying to figure myself out.  I realized that I can be free from definitions, free to be whatever I feel like being.

“The Unidentified Girl”

So many voices, so many faces

She isn’t a definite person

Just an outline that can be

Filled in differently every day

You try to pin her down

With an explanation

But she’d change before

You got the words out

And she’d fly far above

The sound of your voice

She’s made of the same fabric

That a leaf or flower petal is

And she’ll easily tear free

From your boxes

Of descriptions

Companion Poem:

“Who am I?” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
equally, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were
compressing my throat,
yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine!