Soon, I’ll be heading north to see my family for the holidays. Like many others, I moved away from my ancestral homeland (also known as my boring hometown) in search of greener pastures (first place that offered a job). My hometown is about five and a half hours away, and I’ve been doing that drive for almost ten years, because this is what happens when you go away to college and end up getting a job in your college town.
Some people may love going home to see all of their family, their old high school chums, hitting up the hometown bars, and possibly reconnecting with their old high school flame, Susie Stinkysnatch. Others, like myself, moved far away because the prospect of living in a boring, small town urban sprawl isn’t exactly what I wanted to do in life.
Ever have to do something where the drive is the worst part? Like when you get there, it’s not so bad but the actual plane, train, or automobile ride royally blows? That’s how I feel. People that say, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” can kiss my ass.
When I do my twice-a-year pilgrimage home in the winter, I know what’s coming. When you live in the mountains in December, it usually always snows. This means I get to compete with both ends of the driving spectrum: the Toyota Camrys that think their sushi wagon can defeat Mother Nature and her half a foot of snow or the tater-tot-sized-dick people in their F-750s that think they are invincible, only to careen off the road into an embankment. Throw in some 18-wheelers on I-81 and you’ve got yourself a white knuckle drive.
If playing car Frogger wasn’t bad enough, the radio stations are awful. It’s two Jesus channels, a Country Top 40, a Pop top 40, and some right wing nut job talking about the end of the world. For three of the five and a half hours. I’d love to play some Spotify if I could somehow get service in these desolate valleys and peaks.
I know when I finally reach my hometown, nothing really will have changed, but it always feels like I’m an outsider. It’s weird to think I spent the formative first 18 years of my life here. My elementary and middle schools look pretty similar, the general store is still there, yet it feels like I’m just a visitor to a place I once called home. I still know my way around town as well as I always have and pass a few houses, wondering if the people that live in the houses are the same ones that did when I was calling this place home. Nothing is overtly different but the place seems sad now.
I feel like I betrayed the town, a place that let me live in safety, where I ran around without fear of abductions, getting hit by a car, no gun violence and I was provided a top-notch public education that I completely took for granted. Poverty was non-existent so I was very fortunate (and very sheltered) until I left this place. As I pass the old brew pub in town, a tavern that has been hosting people since the 1700s that I neglected to frequent when I called this place home, I wonder what it’d be like if I stayed. I know a lot of people from high school that have stayed in the area due to the alluring ‘burb life. I wouldn’t have met any of the people I know now and call a friend, but I guess it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t know the difference.
I always get mixed feelings when I return home. It’s not just seeing people I haven’t seen in a while, reconnecting with friends and family, visiting old stomping grounds; it’s a strange mixture of my current self coming to terms with the past. It is always strange and I guess that’s just how it is.
It’s weird to have spent 18 years and many college summers in a place, only to feel like the experiences were from a different lifetime. Maybe it’s my brain playing tricks on me, maybe it’s from being far removed for so long, maybe it’s supposed to be this way. Like an old relationship, I am happy for the experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly, but I’m glad it’s over. Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened or some sappy shit like that. .
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