I thought leaving home was the hardest thing I had ever done.
Turns out, going back home several months later only to realize that place is no longer home was even harder.
Ever since my first pangs of homesickness after I left, I couldn’t wait to take a solo trip east for Thanksgiving and revel in the comfort of home. I bought my tickets back in August and had been counting the days. I was pretty apprehensive to settle into my new life here in San Francisco so I never quite let go of the past. I liked to imagine home would be exactly as I left it.
I got off the plane in the highest of spirits, romanticizing the weekend to come. My mom and her fiancé had moved to Florida for work a few years ago, and they were scheduled to land just an hour after me and we’d all ride back to what used to be home, together.
But the thing is, there wasn’t really a home to go back to. The place I truly considered home was my college town 30 miles east of my hometown and my mom’s home had been sold years ago.
Each minute that ticked by in that hour of waiting in the airport chipped away at my unrealistic high hopes for the weekend. I knew I wouldn’t be snuggling up by the fireplace while my mom baked a pie; she would be just as much of a visitor as I was. And the thought of staying in a hotel with her in my own hometown made me so sick that I ended up sleeping in my childhood best friend’s brother’s old bedroom instead.
The moments that my mind wasn’t occupied by bouncing from relative to relative, nostalgia consumed me. I cut out some time to visit my college town, because that’s that last place I truly felt at home. But that is where the most had changed. The cozy community that surrounded me just six months ago no longer existed. I walked into the coffee shop that had been the hub of my friend group and I didn’t recognize a soul. My mind flickered back to the countless times I found myself there when I didn’t know where else to go and the countless times I was comforted by a friendly face. Now it felt foreign, unfamiliar. I was hit with the uncomfortable realization that life has been going on just fine without me.
I had spent the previous several months believing that this place was my safe haven, unable to let it go. But as the weekend proceeded, I became more and more aware that this place was no longer my home, but neither was California yet. I was in limbo.
Luckily, I met one of my best college friends for a drink and I soon realized that I was not alone. We reminisced on the family of friends we had made in previous years and how our college town eventually became home to us and how it was really only a matter of time before the feeling of home would shift to our new residences.
And the truth is, if you, too, are one of the brave souls who fled home, you’ll likely displace yourself again and consider where you are now somewhat of a safe haven. So we might as well settle in and make the best of it. For soon enough, we will be home.
[Photo by Julie Bloom.]