I’ve never had a problem leaving. When I graduated from high school, I couldn’t wait to leave my hometown in the Pacific Northwest to attend college in Boston, a city that seemed huge to me. When I graduated college and left Boston for New York and my first job, I was thrilled to make good on a dream to live and work in the most exciting city in the world. While I have family and friends that I love dearly, I’ve been fiercely independent since I was young, and distance from those I love never felt far enough to keep me from going. I don’t mean at all that I don’t miss my friends and family when I’m away from them. I’ve simply been blessed to feel as though modern technology (and air travel) makes it possible for me to be close to those I love even if I’m thousands of miles away.
Recently I attended my ten-year high school reunion and it was the first time I’d been back to my hometown in about four years. My mother moved away shortly after I left for college and I haven’t had many opportunities to go back. When I flew into Portland International Airport, I marveled at the beauty of the Cascades: mountains so close you feel like you can reach out and touch them. When I exited the airport I noticed immediately that the air smelled fresh and clean, so different from the stagnant air of New York City. A friend picked me up and we drove into my hometown, surrounded by the expanse of greenery that I associate with home. Seeing so many friends and some family in this truly beautiful part of the world, I felt home. And for the first time in a very long time, I could see myself moving back. This is a new concept for me. Though I’ve toyed with the idea of moving home when I’m ready to start a family, I haven’t considered it seriously in my twenties. Something about it would feel so final, as though moving home meant the end of my extravagant traveling ways. I would have to be, you know, like settled.
I’m not an adventurous or spontaneous person by nature, but I’ve never quite known where I would “end up.” I’ve been excited to spend as much time as I want in a place before moving on because I thought I would always do just that, move on. I’ve been going through a particularly difficult time lately and agonizing over some life-altering decisions. I’ve been thinking that I need to make up my mind already and choose a place to call home and put aside my dreams of living anywhere else. What I realize now is that I’m the kind of person that needs roots and wings: a place to call home but the freedom to experience the world. Whether that means that I move back to my hometown remains to be seen. It’s refreshing to know that no matter how much (or little, really) I’ve changed since leaving, I can say that where I grew up made me who I am, and the friends and family that welcome me back are the best kind of home to have.