It’s been nearly a week since I returned to my hometown after living on the west coast for the last year and a half. The thought of returning to this place sustained and fuelled me to endure my final months, weeks, and days by the ocean.
While not all terrible, I felt like a foreigner in a strange land of concrete, garbage, and hoards of unfriendly faces. My heart ached for a gentle stillness where the trees were always in sight and a place that knew my name.
Alas, now here I am. Back in the place I had always lived. My perseverance had paid off. My waiting and planning validated. Familiar sights all around me yet, I did not anticipate what I would return to.
Surrounded by ghosts
I returned to the place I knew only to discover, in many ways, it is now equally as foreign as anywhere else in the world. I’m older now. The chapters of my life before this moment have been concluded. The people in these stories resolved and taken elsewhere. There is little that lingers here from my time. It is a haunting sensation and I feel a great and noticeable absence of everything I had known before.
It’s as if I had stepped into a time machine and arrived 15 years into the future only to discover the people I knew, the way of life that was being lived, the things that were happening — they had all passed on.
Now as I navigate this familiar city full of memory, I wonder what the purpose of my sense of urgency to return was. What exactly was I hoping to return to? I’ve arrived at a place that seems to have moved on without me. It almost feels like I’m here for the first time.
Traces of the familiar
Amidst my wandering through this city I can say I have seen a few familiar faces, which has brought me great joy. People from my youth, people from the places I’ve worked, and people I had only met in recent years.
While comforting to see the eyes of others I recognized, it was so apparent that they too now live a very different life than the one we had shared together at some other point in history. Their previous chapters have also concluded and resolved and now they live a new chapter — one that I am unfamiliar with. One that I am not a part of.
While the west coast was not the place my heart felt called to, I cannot say for certain returning to my hometown has satisfied my desire for belonging. I am older now. Older than I’ve ever been. All the days before this one have faded into the nothingness that is behind me. I learned long ago that to chase days passed will only lead to misery. I cannot torture myself longing for a time or a place that is no more.
Where do I go from here?
I suppose all I can do now is carve out this new chapter as I am, with what I have. It was new experiences and encounters that evolved into cherished friendships, romance, and memories in my past. Instead of letting sweet nostalgia grip me too tightly, I know I must follow this formula again if I am to find new meaning in this old town.
Returning to the person I used to be or the life I used to live is not an option. To try to do so would be to force a piece that clearly does not fit, and it would break.
So I embark now onto something strangely familiar yet also fresh and new. I believe there are many new, beautiful, and wonderful things to discover, even in a place of old memory like this. While I suspect this haunting sensation will linger for awhile still, I will do my best to align myself with the flow of time and life. I will continue my journey of self-discovery and the pursuit of love. I will continue to build my heart and my home.