This Invisibilia episode moved me so much that I almost burned my dinner and couldn't contain the impulse to share with you fine readers.
The episode tells the story of a Google engineer who felt trapped by his strict work/life routine and created an algorithm to select random events for him to attend. Every Friday he would spin the proverbial wheel and let the thing choose where he was going - he calls this "bubble hopping". Anything was fair game, from a community center pancake breakfast to acroyoga.
The Invisibilia producers joined him for some "bubble hopping" in his hometown of Des Moines, Iowa. The algorithm landed them at a First Friday Breakfast Club for gay and bisexual men. There they met a man named Gary who opened up to them about his experience leaving rural Iowa so he could live life as an openly gay man. As he described the home he left behind, Gary started crying. (21:48 if you want to listen). Here's the reporter's reflection:
Fifteen minutes earlier we had been speeding through a barren winter landscape and then, just like that, we were here, in front of an older man, with a muffin crumb stuck in the corner of his mouth, who had been overcome and was accidentally crying in public about how the freedom he clawed for himself had cut him off from a thing that he loved. Is that the price you might pay for ditching your bubble?
These words, and Gary's tears, really struck a chord. Like most people who've left home in search of something (adventure, a job, a spouse, freedom...) I've done a ton of bubble-hopping. I've lived in 7 cities and 3 continents in the past 10 years. Don't get me wrong, I love my nomadic lifestyle: it has enriched my life, widened my perspective and introduced me to the man of my dreams. But, in that process, it's also made me feel increasingly disconnected from the community I was brought up in. (A huge reason why this site exists.)
My desire to burst out of my bubble always comes from wanting to experience more of the world. But the price I pay for this is a feeling of never truly belonging anywhere; of always being, in some sense, an outsider. Every time I move somewhere new I feel like I'm infiltrating, visiting, touring, sightseeing... all verbs that are temporary by definition.
So yes! I'm an unrooted individual! Sometimes this concept is super freeing and sometimes it depresses the hell out of me. I'm like a bird who flew high and far but is now getting tired and needs to find a place to land, build a nest and lay some eggs. But where? And when I do find that place, will I ever feel there the same way I feel when I'm in Puerto Rico? Or is my original caribbean bubble the only place that will ever truly feel like home?
Is our original bubble, the one we were born in, the only one that will ever truly feel like home?