There have been multiple occasions where I was asked (usually by a family member) if I could see myself living here forever, and the answer to that shifted from, “Mogoče?” to a firm “Ne.” I love Slovenia and all, it’s a beautiful country with unique cultural quirks and all the old world charm held by pretty much all European countries. And of course, most of my mom’s family lives here. But it’s just not home.
If there’s anything I’ve been surprised by since living here, it’s how I’ve gained a greater appreciation for where I am from. Growing up, and still to this day, I don’t think anything special of my hometown. It’s a boring, middle-upper class, suburban town just 30 minutes northeast of Dallas. It has no charm, no character, no culture (at least not one all that interesting or worth sharing, maybe Friday night football games but that’s about it). And to be honest, when referring to “where I am from,” I’m looking more at Texas and America as a whole. Which to be honest, I never cared much for those two either!
I was quite obsessed with Europe though. All that old world charm, all those old buildings, all that beauty. Texas doesn’t really have any of that. So naturally, I wanted to have what I didn’t, and because I had this picture of Europe in my mind, most of the time I blocked out all the things I liked about Texas. Our highways (up to seven lanes on some of them!), our Mexican food (aka Tex-Mex), our (sometimes unbearably hot) weather, Dallas (especially downtown), church (I miss worship/sermons in English), and the large Christain community in general. When I thought about these aspects of Texas or came into contact with them, I would often think, “Hm, maybe Texas isn’t so bad.”
But no, Europe! I had this fantasy about Europe which isn’t super uncommon for some Americans to have. That it’s this magical place, and to some extent, it is if you are only visiting (including extended stays like mine). But for most, they live and work here, they were born and raised here, so it is nothing special to them. It’s their normal. There are Europeans who have this same dreamy notion about America. But for all of us Americans who live and work here, who were born and raised here, it’s our normal. We view it as nothing special. And I think these fantasies about another country or culture can happen to anybody who isn’t in love with the place they’re from. To anyone who is curious to see how much more exists outside their bubble.
As you may have gathered, I was never all that connected to my homeland. I’ve never been patriotic. I’ve never had, and don’t know that I ever will, the Texas pride that most Texans do (like my brother Alexander). Texans really love Texas. They think it’s the best state in the US and the best place to live in the entire galaxy. And since Texas was a country at one point, some patriotic Texans believe we ought to be one again, I mean we’re TEXAS after all. In terms of US patriotism, I never really cared to root for us in the Olympics (we’re so big and rich anyway I felt like that was the only reason we won so much) and I know for sure I’ll never hold the American mindset of “America is the best country in the world” and think it’s incredibly obnoxious when people say things like this. Nothing wrong with loving one’s country, but as someone who has ties to another, it got a bit old growing up and hearing how another one was better, even if it was the one I lived in.
And this was because I had always felt such a connection to Slovenia. I really liked being part Slovene and enjoyed spending time in Slovenia. I had always dreamed about living there or somewhere else in Europe. The nature in Slovenia is astounding and as I mentioned earlier, it has all the old world charm that America lacks, and that’s hard to beat. But, I have found that it does wear off. As fascinating as it all is and as much as I love experiencing it, I’ve realized it’s just not home for me. And since being here, I’m starting to think maybe I like(d) America more than I thought?
Well, sort of. It’s not really about like and dislike, it’s about the culture I’ve grown up in, and the thought of being in a culture that’s not really my own for the rest of my life sounds hard and even scary. I’m impressed by all the people who are currently pulling it off.
I will say I’m a bit surprised that this place doesn’t feel more like home. Don’t get me wrong, I love being in Slovenia and am very content and not at all sad. I just wouldn’t want to stay forever and know I’ll be ready to go home when the time comes. It’s kind of hard to put it all into words actually. That special connection, that tie, that pull you have to the place you grew up in. I remember discussing basically the topic of this blog post with three of my cousins back in December and had so much trouble explaining my new found feelings for my home country. “It’s just different!” was the phrase I kept repeating when trying to explain why I wouldn’t want to stay in Slovenia forever. It was over Christmas that I realized the place you grew up in holds a piece of your heart in a way that no other place is able to. I would say Slovenia also holds a special place in my heart, but not the way Texas does. That’s not to say it isn’t as deep or meaningful, it’s just not the same.
Overall I’ve come to love and appreciate my home country and state a whole lot more through my few months here so far, and I’ve really been able to see how growing up in Texas has helped shaped me into the person I am today.