What It’s Like When Your Hometown No Longer Feels Like It’s Your Home
By: Gigi Engle
It’s like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t even exist. Maybe it’s like this rite of passage, you know?
I don’t know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place. – “Garden State”
There will come a time in adulthood when you make that cherished journey back to the place where you grew up.
A time when you book a plane ticket and embark on that familiar voyage back to the place where you lost your first tooth, where you had your first kiss and where you learned your first lessons about life.
You leave the life you’ve been creating for yourself, the life that seems so small compared to the one your parents made for you.
You take a deep breath and make that trip home.
You get to your hometown and drive down the same streets you still know like the back of your hand.
You see your family, you reminiscence and you go to sleep in your old bed. Somewhere along the way, it will hit you.
As you lie bathed in the echoing memories of what feels like a hundred lifetimes ago, it slithers in.
The thought will creep up on you, as you lie awake, listening to the sounds of the house that sheltered you long before you were exposed to the harsh realities of the world, back when this was the only life you really knew.
It’s a sad feeling, really. One that is ripe with loss. As you stare at the cracks in your ceiling, as you trace your fingers over the initials you carved into your bed frame at the age of eight, suddenly, you realize you don’t feel comfortable like you once did.
You feel like a stranger inside of a place you used to know so well. It feels like you’ve stepped inside the memories of another life.
It suddenly becomes very apparent your old house, in your old town, is no longer home.
Where you imagined you would feel so safe and at peace, you instead feel lost.
It’s overwhelming, and it’s strange. It hurts to feel this way, to find yourself feeling so disconnected in a place that is supposed to be the epitome of your comfort zone.
It’s daunting to have to face the harsh reality that this place you used to call home is no longer that place for you. Your heart is no longer there. You no longer belong.
Everything has a past, but you don’t see a future.
You drive past your old high school, your favorite sandwich shop and that worn-down playground.
Everything is dripping with nostalgia. Everything here has a story. Yet, you don’t see a future.
You don’t see yourself ever wanting to come to these places again.
You don’t see yourself raising a family here, putting down roots. It feels like a closed chapter book, and there are no new memories to be made.
It feels more like a vacation spot than it does home.
You used to feel so content here. Everything suddenly feels like a novelty.
You don’t come here after being away from home; you plan to come here after being at your home.
Home stops feeling like a place of rest when you have to use a few of your allotted 14 vacation days in order to go there.
You realize the only thing you had in common with your old friends is you grew up here.
Once you left high school, you suddenly realized the only thing you had in common with your “high school friends” was the fact that you went to the same school.
Where you used to miss your friends so much, you now don’t want to see anyone who grew up with you when you need to leave the house.
Once you get out into the real world, you find people who have similar dreams and aspirations. They left their hometowns for the bigger picture, just like you.
You see how far you’ve come.
You realize you’ve evolved, but your hometown hasn’t. You see people doing the same things they’ve always done, and you don’t want to do those things. You see how much you’ve grown.
Sometimes it takes going back to your old hood to see just the true trajectory of your progress in life.
You see the girls from high school who are married with kids, still living on the same street; you see the dads playing golf and pumping their gas in middle-class suburbia, and you realize this may have been the life you grew up with, but it isn’t the life you want for yourself.
It may make them happy, but it could never be enough for you.
Activities you used to love have now lost their luster.
You used to love going to the mall and going swimming in the lake. You adored mini golf and running around in the local woods, drinking 40s.
All of those activities and places you used to put so much importance and significance on now seem shallow and pointless.
A trip to the movies used to feel like the most incredible thing in the world.
When you’re home, you become strangely aware of how much of an adult you have become.
You feel like an outsider because you are an outsider.
You feel like a stranger in a strange land in a place you used to call “home.”
You realize the idea of “home” is very subjective. Just because you grew up somewhere doesn’t mean you’ll always belong there.
You know this place will always hold a small piece of your heart and will forever contain some of your fondest memories — and yet, this place is no longer home.
It’s a curious thing that happens when you’ve grown up. It comes on unexpectedly, but it always comes.
The place you’re meant to call home is out there, waiting for you to find it.