Sunday, January 31, 2010

You can't go home again.

If there is one thing I have learned in my 34 and half years on earth, it is that you can't go home again. I mean that metaphorically, literally and probably figuratively as well. The first time I learned this lesson was in kindergarten. Of course I wasn't as profound back then (or as wordy), but I sensed my first day of kindergarten that my world was changing drastically. And that it would never be the same.

I started kindergarten shortly after my 5th birthday. I had been a fairly sheltered kid. I had not attended any sort of pre-K or preschool. So this was my first foray into structured, American public school. And I didn't know anyone in my class. In fact, the moment I realized I wasn't going to be able to go home again, I was on the playground. I walked up to another kid, and she said, "Hi my name's Dana." I knew one Dana. She was the kid down the street. This was not that kid. So I said, "No you're not. You're not Dana." She looked bewildered and skipped away to play with a more normal kid. It was evident to me in that moment, I didn't quite fit.

Fast forward 12 years...I left my small, decidely midwestern, semi-rural, Lutheran existence for 3 states away to a Southern Baptist college in the south. Again, I was quick on the draw. It didn't take me long to realize, I could not home again. In fact my first long break back home I felt awkward, out of place and realized despite all of those promises, I was not going to stay close with the people I went to high school with forever. We seemingly had little in common and I felt like someone in a foreign land. My adjustment to college life in the south was a little rocky, but just about the time I had figured it all out, it was time for another transition.

This time I wound up at law school closer to my hometown, but still 150 miles away. When I traveled back to Tennessee to visit my "home" - I was shocked to learn that again, you just can't go home once you've left. This transition was decidely the most difficult for me. I felt like a fish out of water. I had no soft place to fall. My fellow law students were seemingly competitive and oddly self-focused. I had been an activist in college - both politically and to some degree in the religious left as well. Here, nothing seemed to matter to anyone. Everyone appeared to be out for #1 (himself or herself) and all my relationships seemed very, very surface. I was back to that strange playground where "Dana" didn't seem like Dana at all. Like there was a code that no one had let me in on.

After law school, I transitioned back in the St. Louis area - complete with a boyfriend that I had stuck with for most of my law school career. He got me through those years. He gave me something to look forward to. A soft place to fall I guess. Ultimately we married two years after I graduated.

Soon I was expecting our first baby - a fat and happy girl. Still I felt some sort of loss - that longing for my past life maybe...or a longing for getting back to who I was. I couldn't go home again. And I knew that my image of "home" was forever changed by this little person I had brought forth. A few short years later came a beautiful boy - but again I learned quickly that home had again moved out from under me. My little boy was not perfect...he was sick. And I felt as if the sun was hiding its face from me. Our second baby pulled through it all though, with some sort of determination that he might've picked up from me.

This past year brought another transition, and possibly the chance for even more transitions to come. I left my marriage. After several years of pain, and a complete loss of who I was, I made the painful and sometimes still questionable (for me) decision to leave. Once that card had been placed on the table, I again understood, although more intuitively than I have in the past, that I could not go home again. Home, again, had shifted. As I look down the path I have begun to travel, I sense yet more upheaval.

For someone who has never been particularly good at change, I'm scared. I'm frightened of that feeling of alienation. Of separateness. Of isolation. These were the markers of each of my journeys away from home. And although I realize that life has worked itself out at each of these junctures in my life, I am still scared. Scared of what leaving this "home" will look like and feel like. I was reading the alumni magazine from my college today. And perhaps this is what brought on this blog...but I realized I can never go back to that place and find acceptance. And of course in all of these transitions, that is what I have craved more than anything else. And in some places I found it. And in others, I didn't.

When I say that you can't go home again, I don't mean that I was ever meant to go back. Because of course life moves forward, and that momentum is not a bad thing. But sometimes, on tough days, I wish I could go back to certain times and places. If nothing else, to feel some sense of unconditional love and acceptance that I so crave. And perhaps that is how I know that I am not currently home. Because I lack those things in large pockets of my life at least as I'm currently living it.

The only thing I know for sure in this moment is that I'm sad. I almost feel as if I'm in a sort of mourning. In preparation for leaving home again. Because I know that the day is drawing nearer, and my heart hurts at the thought of leaving home, yet again.

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