Reconciling Visits Home
Updated: Jan 4, 2020
I remember being 18 years old and dying to leave home – the North. I needed to get out, move as far away as I could, be on my own, not look back, leave behind the pieces of me I didn’t want to remember, discover the bigger and better. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the North, but my connection to it was jaded by memories and thoughts rooted in child and adolescent trauma, and the actions and mistakes of a teenager who didn’t yet know who she was.
Visits home since leaving have been a complicated thing. Living so far away, Christmas and summer have been the only occasions in the year where I make the 5,000km trek back to forest and ice. My first year away at University I made it back for the full summer, the second year I planned to stay for the entire summer but left early, the third year I made it back for a week, and the fourth year I didn’t make it back at all. This time around I was ready. I booked a three-week trip, and it was going to be different.
A lot changes in five years. Family changes, perceptions change, circumstances change, I change, people change (well most). The dynamic of home even changes, but… the North, the place, doesn’t change too much. And that’s what makes visits home complicated.
I feel like there are two types of people: people who can stay in one place forever and people who need to run away, to find themselves through a change of scenery. Being the latter person, I have learned to find myself among new faces, new places, new spaces, new experiences, new, new, new. So with each new growth, adjustment and change in self, looking backwards becomes a really scary thing.
There were a lot of things I needed to heal from in leaving home, and the work since has been immense. For people who run, we fear the past. We fear what we ran from. Visits home mean throwing yourself into the past – into the middle of everything you intentionally (or even unintentionally) left behind. You change, but your past doesn’t, and coming home means coming face to face with those skeletons.
I especially think visits home as people who:
Have experienced trauma.
Have hidden true selves.
Have families that split apart.
Have come out.
Have lost touch with culture/language.
Are that much harder, complex.
Hometowns, home schools, home streets, home parks, home bars, home faces, and homes are all triggers. Faces, places and spaces are triggers. In small towns and communities, these triggers are unavoidable. They wait, familiar to the senses, and like a time machine, transport you exactly to where you were when you left running.
My recent visit, though, had me in a less familiar state - a state where I felt ready, and in fact, even yearning to be home. The readiness being on account of having concretized my identity and healed enough to a point where skeletons no longer make me (that) afraid. Sure, triggers remained, but there was no head hanging, turning away, avoiding, or the desire to hop back on a plane and get the f*** out.
My visit home became beautiful. A place of reflection, reclamation, and love.
When you get to a point in your life where you stop running, standing in the moment becomes something you want to hold onto forever. Home appears different.
I accept myself. So I accepted the past.
I learned forgiveness. So I forgave those who hurt me.
I’m proud of who I’ve become. So I was proud of the place that raised me.
I love myself. So I loved the connections that remained, despite.
I grew in truth. So I remembered the things I missed most.
I stand tall. So I acknowledged the roots that still hold me.
I stopped seeing home as an enemy to struggle against and be defeated, and instead now see it as a long lost companion who knows my vulnerabilities and is ready to welcome me with open arms – an embrace that is familiar, not perfect, but just what I need at that moment.
Next year, instead of three weeks, maybe I’ll plan for four.