On going home

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going home nostalgia

As I am writing this, it’s five days til Christmas, and I am sitting on my childhood twin bed in my parent’s house in little old Winchester, Virginia. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.

I don’t come home to the US as often as I like, but when I do I am always overcome with FEELINGS. Emotions. Guilt. Nostalgia. I both love and hate this in equal measure. I feel all the things, good, bad and the ugly.

Nothing puts things quite into perspective like returning home as if nothing is changed a decade after you first left for college. It’s like I slip right back into the role of being petulant 18 year old again. If only I could fit in my jeans from when I was 18. Sigh.

going home nostalgia

My life in New Zealand vacillates between being hectic as all hell and so mellow time almost stands still at my home in Wanaka. There often is no middle ground. Either way it’s all-consuming for me, and eats up my days in endless strings of high adventure, emails, flights, photographs and writing, writing and some more writing, for good measure. There is no time for dwelling on the past.

Years went by in the blink of an eye. How is 2016 almost over? In my head it’s still July. Didn’t I just start blogging? Oh wait, that was six years ago. Fuck me.

I wake up every day and don’t remember where I am, and no, not because I’ve woken up in someone else’s bed (you animals), but rather I spend so much time traveling I don’t often wake up lucid enough to remember which city in which country this hotel room is in.

There is so much work left to do! So many things I meant to accomplish. I’m not ready for the year to be over.

going home nostalgia

But I digress.

When I am at home, I am almost painfully reminded of all my ups and downs over the years, of my successes and total failures. This twin bed has been my bed since before I was a teenager. This house has been my family house since I was 14. Winchester, of all the fucking places, has been my constancy in a life where I never sit still. It’s the one thing that hasn’t changed. It’s the center for all my memories which when I come back, tend to consume me.

Not to mention I just go batshit crazy when I’m here. I love it. I hate it. It’s painful but good for me. I suppose it isn’t healthy to run away from the past or our emotions, right?

going home nostalgia

When I am here I think about all the things that could have been. What if I had done this instead of that? What if I went down this path instead of that one or made that decision instead of this one.

What if I went to UVA instead of Mt. Holyoke for university? What if I had given up on living abroad and moved in with my ex in NYC? What if I had gone back to Spain instead of moving to New Zealand? And the worst, what would my life be like now if I had never started blogging? Shivers.

Would I be happier? Where would my life be now? There are so many paths that are open to us in life, how are we ever sure we took the right one. And why am I even thinking about this? Is there even any point to it all? If I was truly happy now would I even be considering the past like this?

Maybe we just want what we can’t have?

I am one of those people that lives in their heads. And I’m the kind of person that gets extremely nostalgic (like, to an unhealthy level) so I try and focus on the future instead of the past. Otherwise I get moody, depressed and emotional, none of which are all that pretty.

But when I am at home in Virginia, I am forced to confront all those thoughts I can easily avoid in New Zealand. How do I cope?

going home nostalgia

I suppose as we grow older we need to learn to accept the past, accept that it is what it is and we can’t change it, the only choice we have is to acknowledge it and move forward.

Fifteen years ago I was expelled from school for doing drugs. Four years after that I graduated with honors and headed off to New England for college to start fresh, a total nerd. Seven years ago I put off graduate school (in medieval history no less!) and started a travel blog and decided to move to Spain to teach English. Almost four years ago I went pro, and I quit my job and this blog has been my full time job since.

Even though I love my life right now, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns and when I am home I can’t help but think what it might have been. Would I be happier if my situation were different? I miss the comforts of America sometimes (like Target and cheap but tasty tacos) and I often miss the research and writing around history. Even studying. And sometimes I think by choosing the path that I did means I am going to be alone forever. Dismal.

The decisions we make, good or bad, shape who we are today, right? We just have to learn to live with them I guess.

going home nostalgia

So what’s the point with all my blathering about the past? Fuck if I know. I just wanted to share what thoughts have been tumbling through my head this past week in the hopes that maybe even just one of you might relate to it. Surely I can’t be the only one who gets emotional and nostalgic when they go home for the holidays.

And maybe I just need to get rid of my old twin bed and find myself a boyfriend. Accept this is my reality and handle it.  And start planning 2017.

What about you guys? Do you get nostalgic when you go back home? How do you deal? Spill!

going home nostalgia

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87 Comments on “On going home

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  1. Going home can be so hard! I escaped a coal mining town in Pennsylvania where my parents moved during my senior year of college, and came to Virginia (go figure, we switched spots). I had a few hundred bucks but was desperate and stubborn enough to make it work. I got my full time job, my house, my cats, graduate school and a fiance. For me–this works and I’m happy with this life. But for ages it was damn painful to return to Pennsylvania. I was always filled with this sense of panic of having to return there and not being able to escape again. I’ll be in Virginia for five years come this spring and it was only within the past year that I’ve realized I can return to Pennsylvania and not be overwhelmed by anxiety. I wasn’t afraid of getting stuck there or dwelling in my past decisions. In a way, I found where I needed to go with life and I’ve gotten there, it just took a little longer than I would’ve liked. But that’s ok too.

    I feel that in regard to going home and getting that clash of emotions, it’s entirely normal. But it’s particularly hard for those first handful of times you visit (and by handful, I mean this can cover a number of years like it did for me, and it seems for you) but eventually those clash of emotions pass by and you start to just sort of relax (at least that’s what happened for me and a few friends!) Now I actually look forward to returning to my parents because I consider it an escape (no cell reception means I get zero work requests). Those moments to get away have helped me realize that I really hate the bump and grind of government work and the pissy attitude of the DC culture. It’s helped me realize what it is I love and don’t love about an area and now I’m directing my path to another place. I’m sure for awhile after I’ll look back at DC with those crazy emotions but… eh, that’s ok. It’ll mean I’m happier somewhere else. 🙂

    TEAL DEER: I totally get you, I’ve felt the same thing. Welcome home for now! The weather has been stupidly odd this week, hasn’t it?

  2. I’m in a similar situation- 27 year old Kiwi who has moved to Canada to start my OE. All my friends are settling down in some way, shape or form; marriage, kids, buying a house… I could be doing that too, and a lot of the time I do really want that, but I know it will happen ‘one day’ but once you have all that it’s pretty hard to pack your bags and go travelling. i had to escape the reality of this. I figure it’s best to take a few years to travel, be single, be selfish, have fun right now…because once I have a family I won’t be able to do it!
    I find it refreshing to be in a country where no one knows who I am. It’s also bittersweet, because sometimes it’s a bit lonely and I crave security and familiar surroundings. All I know is I would have all these ‘what ifs’ if I stayed in New Zealand and met a guy and settled down. I think a lot of people travel because they want to break free of the person they once were or their circumstances they were in before they left. I also think 99% of people are better off from having dedicated a certain amount of time to travelling.

  3. I would love to tell you that by the time you reach 66 years of age all will all be crystal clear, but the truth is life s still as mystifying and confusing as when I was 16! If I have figured out anything, the point of life is to enjoy the journey, cherish your decisions whatever the consequences, learn from your mistakes and act accordingly. Travelling has always been and will always be my passion, and I expect the same will hold true for you. Enjoy it. It really is worth it. Every step of the way. Hugs and Happy Holidays.

  4. I’m the exact opposite. I’m a Kiwi that has been in Oregon almost 17 years. Going home to visit for me means spending a couple of weeks in the Coromandel or Otago. I can’t identify with any negativity!

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