I have always found it difficult to describe what it’s like to visit home after moving away. I moved two years ago, and have been back more than I originally anticipated upon my initial departure. I return for holidays, friends weddings (there have been a LOT of those), and just for the quick visit. It feels good and bad at the same time, and I’ve spent the last two years trying to reconcile how that might be.
Part of it is because you expect time to stop. The first time you leave, when you’re really moving somewhere new, you tell everyone “I’ll see you later”. This is a lie. In some ways, and more often than not, you’re really saying goodbye. If you choose to leave, you are choosing to leave behind a life already built, and no matter how many times you return you will never get that back. The minute you step into your new and different world, you’ve changed. You’ve adapted, shifted in some way that is nearly undetectable by anyone but you, but you can feel it. You know something is different now.
You’ll fool yourself into thinking every time you visit home will feel ‘just like normal’, but it will not. Life has continued on without you there. There are so many things you miss. Inside jokes. Tuesday night dinner parties. The new restaurant in town everyone loves. That funny thing someone said last week that still cracks people up. The new relationship in your old friend group. With the passage of time you missed it all and you will never get the chance to be a part of those things. Letting that go, and learning to accept it, is extremely difficult.
You’re no longer a part of something you were once integral to. Your status has changed. You have changed. They have changed. But change isn’t bad. Change is ultimately the thing that makes us who we were meant to be all along.
Because to you, when you’re living in your new space and existing in your new world, the changes you’ve made are hardly noticeable at all. You create routines and find new coffee shops and kiss new people and dress differently and cut your hair and all that just feels so normal, almost expected. And there’s so much time that passes for you, which your friends back ‘home’ miss out on. They don’t know that funny thing your new friend said last Tuesday. They’ve never seen the inside of that new coffee shop. They’ve never gone on that hike on a Saturday. They’ve never even been in your apartment.
This odd separation is okay and manageable, but it doesn’t make it feel any less bizarre. Every time you go home you feel as if you’re looking through a window at everyone. You’re there, and you can see things happening, but you’re not really a part of it anymore. You’re an observer, and a welcome one, but no more than that.
These feelings don’t make this place any less ‘home’ than before, just a revised version. It is now a place you can recall as something that built you, that helped to lay the foundations for who you are now. It’s meant to be a place you can visit, but not a place you should stay.
I suppose this is more of a neutral feeling than anything. You can’t particularly challenge the truth of it any more than you can change the fact that it’s happening at all. Mostly, you just have to accept it’s where you are and be grateful you’ve been allowed to live and exist in more than one space. I think there’s something to that.