They say you can never go back home again. There’s something to that. I am, as I write this, sitting a few blocks away from my old apartment, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the city I love most in the world — Washington, DC. I am so, incredibly happy. I am hugging friends I have missed for months, I am eating foods that light warm fires under chilled memories. I am content.
But it’s not home. It can’t be — at least not the way it was. I can’t be younger (not that I necessarily would like to be). I can’t unlearn what I have learned in the years I’ve been gone. I can’t reset the landscape that surrounds my home. I can’t go back to what home was, I can only embrace the place it has become.
Nostalgia is a funny thing. It creeps out from behind corners, slips into dreams, and a taste or a smell can bring a flood of memories back. It passes, like a wave. Some waves are stronger than others, but they all eventually fade. The problem arises when you float away with the wave, and you let another crash into you and another, until you’re caught in the undertow of memories, left reminiscing rather than living in the moment with which you’ve been gifted.
It will be a year soon since I moved from Washington, DC back to California. It has taken all this time for me to return home and not feel hollow, as if I abandoned my chance at home. I never thought I would be able to make a new home anywhere else. All I could see was months of wandering from place to place or a year here and a year there. Now, I’ve made peace with the fact that home is not a place where I stay — it’s whatever place I am in.
I accept that I live in California now. I have made my home there, because I am there. While I will always love DC, and it will be home to some of my most favorite memories, this is not home. That’s not to say it won’t be again. So, you can never go back home again … because home is wherever you are.