Prelude: I wrote this post after returning to my hometown years ago. It's rather sad, which is why I never posted it. Now after almost two full years after writing it, I feel mostly removed from it. I hardly remember feeling this way. My current headspace is much sounder and therefore am finally comfortable sharing it.
I was thrilled to be coming home. It had been a year, and the last time I came home was not for fun. It was going to be relaxing and exciting to be curled up in my old bed. It was going to be for a while, and not just a long weekend. I was even happy to be back in a shared room with my sister, just like old times.
But it's nothing like the old times.
My excitement to be home was almost as quickly met with the excitement to be leaving again. My joy of coming home doesn't juxtapose well with my realization that this isn't home anymore. It's my parents' house now. My hometown isn't mine anymore. While there's a saying, "You can always come home," -- and you can -- it doesn't promise it will be easy.
Just as I was off living my life in Richmond, people have been living theirs here. My friends have gotten new jobs, new friends, new loves, new hobbies, new houses. My friends -- if I can even call them friends at this point -- aren't my closest confidants anymore. They don't know me anymore, and I they. As I lay in my childhood bedroom, I'm surrounded with walls of pictures of people who I couldn't say more than a few sentences about and what they've done over the past years.
I encourage everyone to leave their hometowns, to try something new. I've never been a better version of myself than I am now. "Getting out" has made me who I am. But now pushing myself back into my hometown feels like when you try to shove yourself into your "skinny pants" when you're in full holiday bulking season. It just doesn't fit like it used to.
New restaurants have been built in place of old ones. My high school has graduated seven classes since mine. Do the teachers I had even still teach there? Would they even remember me? Did I even exist there?
My stash of clothes here is dwindling. The bartender has to double take at my license since it's now an out-of-stater. I doubt I could navigate myself around town anymore very well.
When I'm wrapped up in myself and in my life in Richmond, I forget all about my hometown. I forget about people, places and memories. I set foot back in this town, and it all comes rushing back. I remember the happy times, like winning a big soccer game or throwing a surprise party for my best friend. I remember the sad times, like the time we realized it was all coming to an end and tried to convince ourselves everything wasn't about to change. I see people at bars that are basically ghosts from my previous life. Yet just like ghosts, they seem distant and unreachable. Just a flash in the pan like my time spent growing up here.
When I see familiar faces, I'm overwhelmed by how distant they are. What have they done for the past seven years? Did they make it out of this town? Are they still working at the ice cream bar down the street? Are they happy? Do they chase their dreams?
I have no idea. Beyond the passing Facebook status, I have no idea how anyone is doing. And just to remind me how out of touch I am, I find a post about a guy who I graduated with and passed away from brain cancer. Apparently he had it for awhile and died quite a bit ago; I just didn't see it until now.
I wasn't close with him, admittedly. We had a few classes together, and that was about it. But the fact that this guy spent years of his life in close proximity of mine and could die of brain cancer and I just have no idea is really depressing. It's depressing because no one deserves to get brain cancer, let alone die of it. It's sad because he was married (which I also didn't know) and she is now a widow. It's all just really sad.
It's like living in a parallel life. There's the hometown life trudging forward. I could have been here for it, but I'm over in another parallel universe, missing it all.
We all make choices, and the unwavering choice I made was to walk away. I picked the other universe, so I gave up my right to being in the hometown bubble.
Seeing my family here is a blessing, having a hometown with such roots is fortunate and living a life worth going back to is a miracle. I'm a very lucky person, but it doesn't always make taking a high dive back into my hometown and memory lane any easier.