I feel weird calling it my "home" since, as I've previously said, the concept of home is one which I am still trying to work out. Nevertheless, this place in which I reside currently and have so for many years is one that changed my life, for better or for worse.
Whitefish Bay is an affluent suburb of Milwaukee in Milwaukee County (i.e. when the tornado sirens go off for Milwaukee I go in the basement too, hence why I insist I'm from Milwaukee frequently) and if you drive through the town, you'd say to yourself, "This would be a great place to retire or raise my young children." We have a great school district, amazing for public schooling in our struggling county, low crime rates, sidewalks everywhere, and trees every couple feet.
To kids growing up here, they don't know how lucky they are or that anyone else lives differently. The only shock they may get is driving through the inner city with their parents and may even be scared by the not perfectly manicured lawns or the higher police presence. I never knew or considered myself to be rich growing up, but eventually did figure out that my family was quite blessed.
Going to a private school for high school, strangely enough, was an eye opener to me that not everyone lived in a town like I did. I would visit friends in various parts of Milwaukee and the surrounding areas and in almost every place I went, I was struck by how welcoming the atmosphere was. I felt that same way living in Iowa City and in Cork, Ireland when I lived on my own for the first time.
Living on your own is a sobering experience in my opinion, even if your parents are helping out with the rent; being a continent away is even more terrifying. You realize how much fucking food is in your house (even if you do live in a family of nine), how clean and nice your clothes smell after coming out of a functional washer/dryer, how green your front lawn is, how many not chipped dishes you can count, how comfy your un-shitty mattress is, etc.
Beyond all this though, you learn how little you can live with and how much you can live without. It also reaffirmed for me that I do not like the town I live in. Don't get me wrong, it was a great place to grow up and all that jazz, but I have this resentment toward Whitefish Bay that I cannot put my finger on. A lot of this town does remind me of *Alexia (driving by her old house everyday probably doesn't help that much either...), from where we used to play to places I used to go to cry and be by myself.
I remember how magical I used to think this place was, and now it feels cold and fake. The beauty feels manufactured and the happiness a facade. I don't know what went wrong or what happened to me, but this place makes me feel trapped. It's as though I'm falling back into my old way of life and back into a time when I couldn't feel the warmth of the sun on my skin shining off all the green leaves.
It's melodramatic, I'm sure, but the streets and buildings still make my skin crawl. The local mall puts a smile on my face as do the local shops and my street, but everything else? It makes me ill to see my past right in front of my eyes. It's this reminder that you've overcome all that this place gave you hell for, but you're still somehow stuck in its cycle. I could never live here (beyond the fact that I couldn't afford a house here in my wildest dreams), this I know for sure. I need a city, bursting at the seams with life and filled with tragedy and triumph, the kind of place where people flock to in the hopes of their dreams coming true.
Yeah, I'm talking about NYC...but perhaps it'll only be a dream. However, if I could live there someday, I know for a fact that I'd be happy there even if I did (and probably will) fail. I need a city with a life of its own, a living, breathing organism with many moving parts going on day after day. I don't feel that passion for this suburb and I don't think I ever did and that's okay; it leaves my options open to dream of a better place where my heart will finally be free.