Maybe five years ago I was running away, but these days I can hear a siren call calling me out into the world. It’s a strange feeling as if I am supposed to be somewhere at a certain time, maybe it’s to give advice to someone’s next chapter in life, or to lend a helping hand to someone struggling in a rural town which would start an important chain of events somewhere down the line, or just simply to be an example of what not to do so others can learn from my mistakes. I’m not sure, but a year ago I promised to listen to my gut and the same gut that told me I needed to come home for a few months is telling me again that there is something out there that I need to accomplish.
There’s a beauty in living a life that is true to yourself and not for anyone else. In the past, I’ve lived for my boyfriends, their hobbies became my hobbies, their dreams I tried to co-opt. It’s a fate I see of many young women and I’m thankful that I had lived through a situation where the evil of losing myself far outweighed the small and infrequent joy of being with someone who didn’t value me.
Coming home has been a healing experience for me in many ways. When you leave your home to go abroad, you are leaving behind your people, family, tribe, and familiarity. It’s not always a perfect happily ever after or adventure as it is often depicted in TV shows or books, but it is most certainly an experience that adds depth and perspective to your life, often through suffering. The suffering, and joy, of trying to find your way back to your bed in a place you’ve never been, of being completely and utterly anonymous among strangers, of re-building who you are in a new community, of realizing your pre-conceptions and ideals may not fit in this new place and need adjusting can be daunting and rewarding.
Sometimes the pain comes from being away from home for so long that you’ve become derailed from your roots and foundation. That you have a foot not only in two different places, but two different identities, two different mindsets.
And I don’t like using the word pain because it has such a negative connotation. I mean a type of mental discomfort that I wholeheartedly believe we should lean into, the same a marathon runner leans into the discomfort of their training to improve. My fencing coach used to push hard in our individualized training, until I was sometimes puking or shaking with fatigue (often it was self-induced punishment for showing up to practice a bit tipsy). He used to say that if he could keep pushing my physical and mental boundaries in practice, then when it came ready to compete, I’d be comfortable in my own discomfort and have an edge on my competition. The more he could push my comfort zone, the wider that zone became. And I feel it’s the same in life; that if you orient yourself to the right path and right goals, listen and truly care for yourself, that these paths of discomfort are expanding your horizon and your sense of self.
I find it funny now looking back on it, that when I first came home I couldn’t help but believe I was a failure.
This feeling of failure had been haunting me since returning from Everest Base Camp and I had been trying to ignore it through copious amounts of drinking in Thailand and video games (MTGA). I was wanting to find anyone else to place the blame on for this storm cloud that hung over me, and when you go looking to place the blame, you can usually find something no matter how irrelevant it is. I felt a failure because I was unmarried, failed myself in my last relationship, had no children or upcoming prospects, I’d be turning thirty in 2024, had no active source of income, and on top of all that I was once again living at my parent’s house. So in all appearances I was the caricature of a good for nothing wash-out living out of my parent’s basement and I made the mistake of letting that negative voice whisper as Wormtongue in my ear.
Slowly and surely the gloom lifted when I finally took the time to take my head out of my own ass. Everyone was struggling with their own battles and the idealized lives I had pictured for everyone else were nothing but hollow illusions. Being married meant I’d have to give up my hard-fought independence, having kids would limit my travel and hobbies, working that career job wouldn’t have allowed me to come home, and living with my parents meant I could spend time with them. I was able to change my own internal narrative of how I saw my own life. From seeing my friends and family, I got to see the beauty of being married and having kids but I also got to see how I am not ready for that, at least not yet.
I also got to see the beauty of my own freedom and it made me realize that if I indulge in deprecating self-talk, then I’d lose the ability to see the joy and happiness of my current situation. Dancing with older generations to classic rock at local get-togethers, enjoying the advice and joie de vivre of older (and many happily single) women, hearing the gossip at the sailing club I’m working part time at, and watching my mom get hit on when we’ve grabbed drinks, it made me all realize that life doesn’t end with marriage and it certainly doesn’t end at 35, regardless of what society might say.
I also realized that every stage of life has its moment to shine and that it would be a crime to not celebrate every day of what it brings. That the next stage of my life will bring change; a celebration of the new things to come and a funeral dirge for the things I’d have to lay to bed and there is nothing wrong with that. Each transition is bittersweet, I am still in the spring of my life when looking at the big picture, not the winter as I had previously thought.
Now, my self-imposed narrative isn’t of a ne’er-do-well deadbeat, but of a budding entrepreneur starting her own consulting company (freelancing software engineering work and voice acting with already a few clients!), traveling where she pleases, exploring new adventures, and following her heart. A woman who knows her roots, loves her family, and enjoys the gifts that each day brings.
From seeing my little sister again, drinking morning coffee with mom, helping my dad in Georgia to install a ceiling, discussing books with my brother, watching trashy fashion shows with my sister-in-law, laughing with my godmom, grabbing drinks with my childhood friends who I also consider family, going dancing at the local super market with my mom and aunt, fishing and hunting with my uncle, and holding my niece in my arms, coming home has never felt so good.
Just showing photos of just myself during my home adventures in case my family and friends don’t want to be so publicly broadcasted