I Can’t Go Home Again

I was chatting with my 18-year-old daughter (who lives in the US) about our school’s upcoming graduation and this article meant to leave students with a sense of what my experiences have been like, but more importantly how sharing those experiences might shed some light on what our new graduates might see and do in their future, and what our underclassmen might plan for accordingly.

Summer yoga session on a beach

What got me texting my daughter was a Twitter post of an island scene she tweeted (Greece maybe?) and a comment about living life to the fullest, or something like that (pretty typical). But it got me thinking about where she’d live in the future, and what she’d be doing. Her tweet said she’d like to live on a tropical island, just like so many other tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram photos, or WeChat moments we’ve all seen. But most people don’t actually realize those dreams. Instead, they live vicariously through others’ posts hoping that one day they’ll find sand beneath their feet. Unfortunately, they probably won’t ever do anything to make it happen.

Is this insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Saying over and over, “One day . . .” And then never doing anything about it?

I think it’s more complex than that and much harder than folks think due to traditions that are so ingrained, that going against the grain ain’t easy. I had an epiphany long ago, as I struggled with the fact that I wanted my kids to be near their cousins, but I didn’t want to live in my Mississippi hometown. That’s what we do though; we return home to be with parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews and old friends. Those connections are important for everyone involved, and the help sure doesn’t hurt. It’s also what we know, which isn’t as scary as the alternative.

We’re pressured to keep that tradition alive. Not for the sake of any romantic ideals associated with tradition, but simply the pressure our families and friends (and society, for that matter) place on us with their expectations that we return home. And, in fact, most people do.

I love the mountains. I had that epiphany I mentioned above on top of a mountain above Missoula, Montana, as I looked out at the other peaks surrounding the town. That’s when it hit me. BAM!

Folks return home here. To Missoula! If I had been born in Montana, that vicious cycle of returning home to Mississippi wouldn’t be an issue. Anyone, for that matter, from a place they don’t particularly like, whether geographically, politically, socially, or otherwise could avoid the roundabout if they could just choose where they’re born. Simple, right? I wish.

So how do we break this cycle, this tradition that pulls us back in to a hometown that isn’t tweeted often? I came up with that answer, on top of that same mountain. But it’s not a really good answer. Or rather, the solution is simple, but the follow through not so much. You have to start the cycle where you want it to return. The catch is that if it isn’t near family and friends, you’ll be going it alone, or at least alone with your immediate family, setting sail on an adventure to set an example. Since kids return for the most part, I want to start a cycle where my kids’ homecoming will take part in a place that they like geographically, politically, and socially, where they can grow with an open mind that allows them to explore and impact a new world, one that we all hope to see one day.

I’m still looking for that place, as if I’m still on that mountain wondering what the different peaks in the distance hold, wondering where I’ll begin again. Europe might be the answer; I’m moving to Hungary in June. But so might Greece, or some other tropical island. Maybe Montana. The point is, I’m looking. For the sake of my immediate family, and perhaps others, if taken to heart  new traditions might be discovered.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. GARRET MERLE says:

    My wife and I were just talking about this the other day. We want to search thoughtfully for that place that we can truly call home. Oklahoma (for me) and Iowa (for her) will always be “home” in some sense of the word (despite the fact that neither of us were born in those states), but neither of us have any desire to end up in Oklahoma (the list of reasons is endless, unfortunately) and I have no connection to Iowa (outside of her family, who I love dearly).

    It wasn’t Texas or South Africa for us and while Indiana has been a soft place to land on our return to North America, I’m not sure it will ever be home. I don’t know why, really, it just isn’t and won’t be. I love that your post addresses the value of that search (maybe even more than the eventual place where that search ends).

    In only semi-related news, this is one of the first topics I discuss with my geography students (using the term “sense of place”) and I supervised a student’s Geography EE last year where she explored the “sense of place” via the concept of “home” among Third Culture Kids at our school. One of my very favorite topics and I really only get the chance to teach it because you took a shot on an overgrown kid a few years back. Thanks again.


  2. Leslie says:

    I think about this often with my twin sister living in Colorado (one of my favorite places) and I’m in Mississippi. I’ve lived all over and have loved every place I’ve lived but I ended up settling back in Oxford, MS and raising my family here. My parents bought a house on a private island in the British Virgin Islands and I make it a point to go there every summer. Each time I arrive there and take the boat to the house, I smell the air and feel the salt on my skin and I think, “I’m home”. But I also feel that way when I smell the magnolias and honeysuckle in bloom back in Mississippi. I feel that way when I go visit my sister and I’m reunited with the mountains again and the beautiful views. There are a lot of places I feel where “I’m home” and each one is near and dear to my heart. My home doesn’t just pertain to the square footage in Oxford I’m still paying the bank to call my own.
    “Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers, that the mind can never break off from the journey.”
    -Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy


    1. Jason Wright says:

      I like the story and the comments. I guess I feel at home anywhere I don’t feel in danger. However I live alone and don’t have a wife and four children. Maybe just another perspective.


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