Going “Home”

I went “home” this past weekend. 

I put home in quotations, because – at what point does your hometown no longer act as your home? I’ve been living away from that town for nearly ten years (except for that one year stint between undergrad and grad school, but we all have that), and yet I still call it “home.” Maybe we just have multiple homes after a certain point.

My childhood friend – the only person I’ve truly kept in contact with from high school – had a baby shower, so to do my diligence as a good friend, I made the trek solo, as Keith stayed back for work. 

Nearly all of my old high school friends were there. And, if you want to know the truth, I was nervous. I hadn’t seen these people in five or so years – sure, we “like” each other’s photos in Facebook, but an in-person connection is so much different. What if they resented me? What if they thought I was weird? What if they disagreed with my life choices?

Because my pregnant childhood friend is not only a saint but a genius, she held her baby shower at a bar. Thank goodness. A Bloody Mary was in my hand before I hardly said hello to anyone… 

It’s a very strange thing, to go back. To see that everything is the same, but different. Most of my friends are still in that town, just in different houses with their own children instead of living with their parents. 

My entire childhood and collegiate career was devoted to getting out. I wanted to be anywhere but that town – not that it was a particularly terrible town – but I wanted to do something with my life. I wanted to get out, break the mold. Everyone I knew stayed within a thirty mile radius of each other, and not that I didn’t love my family or my friends, but I wanted to expand my reach beyond that thirty mile radius. I was going to move forty miles away. 

But seriously, when my not-so-serious boyfriend asked me to move to Kansas City with him following grad school, and my option was to do that or go home – well I hopped on it. The road out. Luckily I ended up really liking him after all, but it was a risky move… And I was willing to take it to get out.

Not only did he provide an alternative avenue to get out, but, to be quite frank – there are no opportunities for my profession in my hometown. My bachelors degree is in visual art and my masters degree in kinesiology – no one had a job like that. You were a teacher or a nurse or a librarian, or an electrician or a plumber or a concrete pourer. Nearly everything is blue collar. There’s no room for artists and yoga teachers in a 5,000 person town… At least not for full time employment. 

So I had mixed feelings about going back. Was I viewed as someone who abandoned the town? My family? Was I perceived as a jerk because I ran as fast as I could in the opposite direction?

Thank goodness for alcohol and that I don’t drink a lot, because I felt much better after half a Bloody Mary. 

And as it turns out, everyone was very nice. Big hugs, big smiles, small talk. I thought I would feel a bit sad, seeing everyone coagulate in the same town I was so desperate to get out of, but I was actually a bit envious. Here, everyone had deep rooted relationships. Everyone has help. No one has to travel eight hours to pick up their stepson or to see their family for Christmas or to go to a baby shower… They might have to drive 20 minutes to get to WalMart, but everything they need is within a thirty mile radius. 

I don’t regret moving away, and I don’t want to go back. But it did make me look at our hometown in a different light. I actually laughed with delight as I drove downtown and noticed Halloween scarecrows tethered to light poles to decorate for the season. Where else do you get that kind of festivity? I would have scoffed at how ridiculous it was five years ago; this weekend it was precious. 

And family. How nice would it be to have my family close by, particularly with children? 

But, we don’t have children full time, and there’s no work for either Keith or I in my hometown. We’ll have to settle – or thrive – making a life on our own, wherever we end up.

And dear old friends and old hometown – I love you. I didn’t appreciate you when I was immersed in you, and now that you’re gone I gain perspective and appreciation. Thanks for being there, for welcoming me back, and for hosting baby showers in bars. 


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