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About this time twenty years ago I was preparing for my high school graduation. With a reunion on the horizon, I have spent a bit of time reminiscing about those days with friends. The idea of returning home has been on my mind as well as advice I received all those years ago.
Of all the advice I received there was one piece that made it into almost all of my graduation cards “you can never truly return home”. Depending on the age of the individual giving the advice it was either meant as a “take heed” bit of sage advice or as a tongue in cheek moment. One friend who had only graduated a couple of years prior wrote something like “Everyone will tell you not to screw up because you can’t go home. Well screw them. You are always welcome at my home no matter how much you screw up.”
With the advice from everyone (young and old) having a similar theme, I knew to pay attention.
One person giving the advice, ehh, maybe.
Ten people giving similar advice, well that has more weight and validity.
But how does one digest the meaning of that phrase?
In high school I spent a lot of my spare time at my youth mentor’s house. Denise wasn’t just a youth mentor at my church, she was the daughter of my mom’s close friend. Sure Denise was a good twenty years older than me but she was more like a crazy aunt than just another adult telling me what to do. She didn’t just have that rapport with me but with all the teens she mentored. It is what set her apart from other adults. More teens opened up to her than to their own parents, so when she gave advice we listened.
Being over at her house so much I had heard her give similar advice about returning home to other seniors. Denise would say how it wasn’t the act of returning home that was impossible. Rather it was the expectation that nothing, from relationships to the physical appearances of places, would change.
Denise would remind us that time stood still for no one so we needed to accept that everyone, including our parents, would change. If we accepted that inevitability then we would be able to know when to let go and when to hold on to friendships and relationships. It would make us better people who didn’t take things for granted and tried to make the best of every situation. In some cases it would help us move past bad situations where there may never be any closure.
At the time I thought I understood all of that and didn’t take the saying at face value. Now, twenty years later I am still learning new aspects of that same advice.
Returning home isn’t just a physical space but a frame of mind. We are all changing and evolving. When we expect people, places, and organizations to be the same as they were a year ago or twenty, we not only do ourselves a disservice but others.
I am not the same person I was when I graduated high school. Nor am I the same person who once managed a non profit organization. In essence I am both of those people while being neither. They are apart of my past that I can reminisce over but have no wish to truly return to.
Right now I am a mom, aunt, daughter, wife, caregiver, household economist… and so much more. To boil me down to one event in my life is folly. If I were to do the same thing to others that would be disastrous.
Often we look back to reminisce about the good times and to remind ourselves how much we have changed. Truly returning home is just living in a past that no longer exists or holds true for who we are this very moment. When we are done reminiscing we should shelve our good memories and free up room to let ourselves and others evolve and change.