The beginning is usually exciting, but uncomfortable, as you navigate your way through the new environment. Eventually, you settle in, make friends, find your niche, know which places to get coffee, adjust to the weather.
Moving back home is different. The physical landscape changes only slightly – maybe a new Starbucks opened up somewhere or the city built a few roundabouts. There’s comfort in going to the Mexican restaurant you’ve loved since you were 20, the place they still remember your order every time you return home from a big move. You know that every summer, you can listen to Music in the Park. Each fall, you know which pumpkin patches to visit. This stability welcomes you back with open arms, gives you a sense of needed familiarity.
But each time you unpack your boxes, you know you’ve changed. You carry new places, new experiences, and new people back. Your home holds pieces of all the cities, the countries you’ve lived and visited. It’s disorienting. Each unwrapped item holds a memory and pulls at some part of you, a part that is no longer tangible, no longer part of your daily life.
How do you safely keep those experiences that have changed you? Do you just sever the past and dive into the present? Keep those paintings from Ethiopia in the garage? Which parts of you do you want in your life, if any, now? What fits?
There’s a struggle between letting go and moving on. There’s an in-between space. Do you really have to fully let go? How can you while coming to a place of acceptance that: You Are Not the Same as You Were Before.
And neither are others. While you were gone, they moved on with their lives, too. They’ve also had new experiences, new people, new priorities they keep within them. Sometimes this enriches relationships. Sometimes you just can’t find a place to meet like you used to. That’s hard. It hurts. And when that happens – and it always does – you think wistfully back to where you had just been living, where you had a groove, a rhythm with friends – one that you’re missing now. (Yet, you know, that if you were to go back to there now, they would’ve changed, too.) There’s a sting of loneliness in that.
The high desert where I live, the place I call home, has always been somewhat unsettling for me. It clings to its crags and edges. They keep you alert. In my younger years, I lived in a low valley lush and green with mighty oaks, grass seed farmers and loggers. It’s smooth and long: Both are home. But I still get itchy feet. Especially when I feel unsettled.
Like now. Change of all sorts shakes your roots. The reality is that a big international move, a divorce, death, loss of friendships – have shaken me. I’m figuring it all out. And I’m trying to remember it’s not all about loss – though there has been a fair share of it in a very short period of time (and it’s OK to be truthful about that).
So, I hang the past on my walls, fill my bookshelves with memories. I dig through the layers and pull out the pieces I want to keep. If it doesn’t feel right, I put it back. I’m learning it’s OK to take my time. To find my own way. To know there are no straight answers here. It’s OK to feel in-betweeny one moment, then in the next, firmly in the present. Even looking forward quite far. All of it speaks its truth.
Life is richer, more intricate for the experiences. It gives a sense of empathy and an ability to look at things upside down and from around the corner. There’s an old strength rising out, too. One that is setting boundaries. One that’s getting clear on what she wants and what she deserves and what she’ll accept. Less compromises.
There's some beautiful things sprouting from that. With loss, with decay, there's always growth, renewal. A different path emerges, one with travelers who walk with you in an interesting way. Unexpected. That's exciting. Healing. Lovely.
I’m standing on a precipice. Feet right at the edge. It’s the one I’ve landed on from jumping several times before. Each new cliff gives a new view - always dauntingly, mysteriously beautiful.
I’ll just unpack the rest of my boxes ... then … I’ll fly.