Pre-post note: I wrote this on my way home for Christmas. It’s all a part of the going home reflection process 🙂 Merry Christmas everyone!
Driving east on I-90, about 20 minutes outside of Spokane, the desert/farmland (which contrary to popular belief is the majority of Washington State), trees start to pop up. First, a single pine tree here and there, then larger clumps, and then full-on forest. This was the point at which my anticipation grew, ready to see the familiar skyline of my hometown. Once I rounded the hill top that revealed downtown Spokane, I’d think back on the road trips as a child when my mom predictably pointed out the beauty of the lights of our city. Now, the sight of Spokane’s lights brings both good memories and fraught reflection.
Since leaving for college 14+ years ago, I’ve had a complicated relationship with Spokane. I always knew I would leave – and likely never move back. I can’t explain my reasons, exactly, other than the fact that I felt it made me feel like I’d be moving backwards in time. As an adult, though, I have come to love and appreciate the place differently – it helps that there’s a lot more to do there than when I was growing up. But in my mind, one leaves one’s hometown and never moves back.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a deep-seated pride for the town, though, that tends to come out closer and closer to my visits. I brag about the mountains and the multiple amazing ski resorts within a couple hours from my parents’ house, and the natural beauty that is so accessible, and the great new restaurants and vibrancy brought to the revitalized downtown in the last decade. Still, I don’t have plans to move back.
This complicated relationship always brings out thoughtful reflections on my feelings about going back, especially now that visits are scattered farther and farther apart. I often spent the journey home ruminating in my reflections, emotions, questions about going home. Am I going to be bored? Have I changed too much to relate to the place? How will I interact with people? Will I even know what to say? In college, especially the early days, I was so excited to come back to the familiar life, but also a little apprehensive to show excitement in an effort to demonstrate my embrace of my new, “independent” life. Returning from my first overseas living experience in Ecuador during my junior year in college, the drive home from the airport brought on a mix of excitement and sadness and wondering how I would connect to the people I hadn’t seen for months. After Peace Corps, I was a mess and had no sense of how to interact with my family, friends and, especially how to feel about my hometown and my place in it.
Despite what was going on in my mind throughout the journey, though, at the moment I saw those city lights reveal themselves those emotions and questions fade slowly away. Feelings about my hometown might be complex, but those lights, that skyline, means I have come home.