I Don’t Want To Go Home

Most people I know are transplants from somewhere else. It doesn’t matter what brought us to the city. College. A job. Somebody we loved. A dream. A hope. Boredom, restlessness. The fact that whatever we were searching for wasn’t in the place we left. Whatever the reason, we’re not there anymore, and we’re here now. Often, we’re here alone. Often, only a phone number with a familiar area code connects us with our childhood homes. We create new homes of roommates and friends, though it’s safe to argue that you often can’t entirely replace one with the other. You can grow new roots, but that doesn’t change the fact that you began from somewhere else, and replanted here. And everyone always wants to know where somewhere else was.

I’m often posed the question of how frequently I “go back home.” I don’t go often. People ask if I miss it, if it’s hard for me, if I feel homesick, if I wish I could go home. I feel like a bad person when I say I don’t. Should I?

At first, when I moved to New York from Los Angeles — propelled by a numbing combination of school, a dream, the desire to be an Adult On Her Own, and the simple logistics of moving as far away from my family as I could possibly manage — I was homesick all of the time. I didn’t anticipate it, although I should have. Every time I’d traveled without my parents for an extended amount of time, I’d wanted desperately to go back home before the trip was over. I knew home, and home was comforting. The city was scary and new and as a newly eighteen year old kid, I’d never had to budget my money or cook for myself, and now I was suddenly an adult. It seemed childish to curl up and cry for mommy, since I had suddenly been presented with all of the freedom in the world, but that was just what I wanted to do.

Over time, the feeling diminished. I realized I could survive on my own, as most people can. I established a life for myself, I found a job, I liked my freedom. I did not go home very often because I could not afford to. I couldn’t afford a plane ticket, and even if I could, I couldn’t afford taking time off of work. When I finally did go home, because my parents graciously paid for my trip, I realized my life simply wasn’t back there anymore.

The next summer, I stayed in the city. I did not go home. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been back in Los Angeles in the five years I’ve lived in New York City. Two Christmases, my siblings’ high school graduation. I don’t know when I’ll be back to visit my family again. It doesn’t really bother me.

Every so often, a friend will mention to me that they’re headed back home, because that is what people do when they’ve got breaks from school or simply did not move far enough away to validate long absences. But didn’t you just go home last weekend, I’ll wonder. Maybe their priorities are different than mine are. Maybe they never wanted to fly far from the nest. Maybe I’m emotionally stunted somehow. Maybe I should want to go home. Maybe I ought to go home. Sometimes, my overactive imagination gets the better of me and I think, maybe they’ll die and I’ll never have gotten the chance to say good bye. Maybe I should make more of an effort to see them.

Maybe I should care more about whether or not I see my family this year. It doesn’t matter to me either way.

Are we supposed to always want to go home periodically? For the holidays, for a break, to catch up with our family. Phones and Skype and Facebook serve that purpose well, and though science has proven that technology takes a lot of the personal aspect out of human interaction, it sure makes it easier to keep up with somebody’s life even though they’re on the other side of the country. What if we simply don’t want to go home?

Do birds go back to the nests in which they’re born? Not after building their own nests, I imagine. But they survive on a different code than we do, and we had to build planes to help us fly. They are built for it. Before planes, it was a much more difficult task to move away. Eventually, it also becomes a difficult task to want to go back home, because what waits for you there? An escape from the life you now live? This — here — is the present. Who knows where the future might be? Who knows what an individual person’s priorities are, and who’s to say whether they’re right or wrong? It is not a sign of defeat to want to revisit home, to be a child again, to be cared for by parents and friends if you’re so lucky to still have them. Nor is it a mark of insensitivity or ungratefulness if you can’t, or don’t want to go home.

Maybe you’ve rebuilt a nest already, and you’re already home. TC mark

image – Shutterstock


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  • Guest

    I wonder if this is the first generation to feel this way, at least, in large numbers. While you may not do it often, yes you should go home. I can’t imagine the mindset described and know few from my own generation (I’m 50) who describe similar feelings, yet my own children (mid to late 20s) are exactly as you describe. 

    • Na

      LOL. Who are you to say someone “should” go home?

  • Lillian

    This, this, this. You took everything I feel about living far away from home and the guilt I feel about not having this intense desire to always go back and portrayed it in a way that is simple and relate-able. It’s okay to be the bird that flies away and makes a new nest, her own nest.

    Also, the line about worrying in case a family member dies and you haven’t made it back recently. Hit home for me on every level. Thank you for this, for letting me know I’m not the only one who feels like this.

  • Guest

    I have two “homes.” Neither one I particularly yearn for, ever. One I left when I was 13, the other I left when I was 19. I’ve only been away from the second home for a year, but it doesn’t feel like home anymore. I guess it never did. 

  • Guest

    Grow up and realize this new city is your home now. That childhood home was a lifetime ago. 

    • Thom

      That’s bullshit.

  • Crispy White

    Thank you, glad to know many feel this way, especially the part about guilt and ungratefulness, though in my case it doesnt help that my hometown is a hell hole.

  • http://summerslowrunner.wordpress.com/ Summer

    I’ve lived in SC for the last 10 years, having moved here from OR. I constantly get the same questions and I feel exactly the same way about it as you do. No, I don’t go home often and no, it doesn’t really bother me. I prefer Oregon as a state over South Carolina, sure, but my LIFE is here. My entire adult existence, everything I’ve acquired and created for myself, is here. I don’t love where I live at all, but it’s mine.  

  • http://profiles.google.com/nhusain09 Nahid Husain

    It’s so nice to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t have extreme desires to go home on a regular basis. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my family as much as you do; there are just other things on my mind and in my life. I blame it on not being as close with my family as other friends are with theirs, but there’s always been a part of me that wants to be on my own. 

  • http://twitter.com/Hol_Gro Holly G

    I semi-relate to this but am suprised that people (those who are asking you questions) put such an emphasis on home in general.

    It seems odd to me that you get asked so often about being homesick (maybe a cultural thing?) People hardly ever ask me if I miss home, and if they do I tell them my feelings and as far as I know they don’t think badly of me.

    I moved cities at 18 (20 now), then I did a study abroad in Mexico for 6
    months last year (Im from New Zealand). I feel like whenever I go home
    my life gets put on hold, or I feel useless like I am in transit. I
    skype my family almost every week so I never feel like I am “missing”
    them, and my relationship with them gets better and better. If anything I
    miss my dog because I can’t exactly ‘catch-up’ with him on skype.  When  I was overseas I also
    didn’t get homesick, where I went just became like a new home to me. I
    don’t feel guilty about feelings towards “going home”, if anything I
    feel guilty if I miss things like Christmas.

    • Anonymous

      I really don’t understand the acceptability of being shocked at people not constantly missing home. I mean, I understand that some people don’t feel that way themselves, and that’s totally ok by the same measure that it’s totally ok to NOT miss home– it’s a personal thing. But there are so many other things that we have come to understand vary as lifestyle and personality differences, and it’s not ok to make people feel guilty about them. 

      For some reason “but… don’t you miss (read: love) your family?” isn’t in that category. 

  • lalala

    Beautiful piece. I came from an unpleasant “home” (lots of family drama, disrespect, poor treatment). When I went off to college, I became friends with people who had perfect little families. Some of them would go home every weekend or at least once a month. They would talk about missing their pets. I, on the other hand, almost never wanted to go home. I preferred to stay at school, living my own life, and I certainly didn’t miss my dog, as I’m not an animal-person. My friends didn’t understand this at all. So I appreciate this article, because the truth is, not everyone wants to go home, whether it be because of family or because they have a new life.

    • Welp

      I can totally relate. For me and a lot of my friends, college is our refuge. I am graduating now, and I plan on moving again. Home is nowhere, I suppose. 

  • NZ

    I’ve gone halfway across the world and I intend on being away for 3-4 years at least, I still love New Zealand, but I’ve been in France for only 3 months so far and it really feels like I belong. Spent the weekend in Barcelona and found myself going to the bakery and saying to a french guy I was with “wow, the pastries here are exactly the same as home!” Haha. The one thing I’m struggling with is that my best friend has just got pregnant and I was present for the birth of her first child, and she wants me to be there again.. and she’s due around christmas. So I feel like I should go home just to be polite, which is ridiculous, because in all honesty, as much as I love her and my family, I don’t want to go home. And I feel like the meanest person in the world for feeling this way.  I don’t feel like home is a place, I feel like it’s just a feeling.

    • alice

      “I don’t feel like home is a place, I feel like it’s just a feeling.”

      Sums it up.

  • http://twitter.com/meganmvo Megan Vo

    Home isn’t anything but packed up boxes in storage – in thought and life.

  • punstress

    I moved from NY to Southern California in the 90s. I believe it was 5 years before I went back home and it’s been a pretty consistent five years between my visits, and two of those were for obligations: my sister’s wedding and my mother’s funeral. Not for any reason except I was always short on cash, don’t like flying, and I figured I lived in paradise so they could come visit me. But the infrequent visits go both ways. My mother swore she would come to see me graduate college but neither of them did. 

    I have friends from NY or Pennsylvania who also moved away and they consistently fly back cross-country twice a year or more, year after year. Even when they don’t want to. To me it is unfathomable to use my precious vacation time that way!

    My friends here think it’s exciting to go to NY, especially during Xmas or New Year’s. But  I always seem to go when it’s the coldest weather of the decade and nobody wants to go out, so I usually wind up sitting around a dark apartment for a week with my sister snapping at everything I say. I do love her and consider us to be close but getting along is still hard. At least when she gets that way on the phone I can just hang up and do other things.

  • Na

    I love this article. I’ve never felt bad about not missing my hometown but I have questioned whether I’m a bad person for not caring to see my family often. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one that feels this way. I mean, I don’t like about 99% of my family members but even the few that I do, talking on the phone once in a while is enough for me. I feel better knowing it’s not abnormal. Thanks for writing this!

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