Going home is great; you get to meet up with family members and old friends, you bump into work colleagues, can drink at the old watering hole… home is somewhere you feel safe – you can walk around the place and feel as if you truly belong there. It’s a weird place, though. I think we all know that, and feel that in different ways. It’s true also of other places we live and visit. You have a bad experience somewhere and it’s only normal that when you go back there, or you think about that place, you get a little edgy. Places change though. What was once your home can become something very different in a short space of time. People change. Friends and family members you once knew develop, form new views, alter direction politically, philosophically etc.
Home is, then, in a sense always interesting. It’s never always the place you left, even if you’ve only left for a short time. The longer the time you’re away the more time there is for larger changes to occur, though. I was home last week for a few days. I will be home in a few months time for a week or two. After that, I don’t think I have any intention of returning home.
I came to that conclusion a few days ago, and it still feels strange. I’m so used to hopping on a train and going home when I have the time. At university it was sort of expected. There would be a mass exodus every few months where everyone would return home to see parents and friends. The towns or cities we students studied in became a ‘home away from home’ certainly, but they never really reached the same homeliness as original ‘home’. I think that’s because student living is a different type of living than the kind we do in youth/adolescence. I’m not in academia any more, I’m not living as a student, so for the past few months I’ve been living in the city as anyone else would; working, drinking, buying, talking, engaging, etc etc.
I’m ‘living’ for the first time in a place other than home, and so my sense of home is changing. In turn, living in a new city allows you to start afresh. Tabula rasa. The blank city can be shaped by the relationships you form, the events you go to and the things you share. Learning from the bad experiences of home allows you to potentially avoid or avert those that may occur in the new location.
At home there are places I struggle in; places in which I experience difficult emotions and find myself knotted in thought. It’s been like that for a long time, and I remember not so long ago trying to reclaim those spaces by walking them over and over, thinking good thoughts, reading light-hearted books, but it seems like some things can’t be changed. When alone, those places are wells of unhappiness. Memories unlike place don’t change, they are concrete. Even if the park you spent all your time playing in as a kid has been replaced by a block of flats it still exists. It’s absence is a kind of presence (I hope you enjoy that subtle reference), and can even activate those memories to a greater extent than the original park would have done.
The places I loved at home I shared with friends, family members and loved ones. Sadly, when I return home my friends have little time to walk those areas with me due to work and other commitments. As such, the places I love the most are tainted by the processes that activate when I visit them – some good, though most uneasy. Nostalgia is a wonderfully awful thing. My home is a kind of minefield with the people I want to see dotted around the centre, and as more and more friends and family members move away – to adjacent clear fields or further – I find myself less and less inclined to go back there and traverse the difficult terrain.