I was in back in Chicago last week on business for a few days, but extended my stay to catch up with family and friends as we are going to celebrate Christmas with E's family in California this year.
Going "home" (I can hardly call it that anymore) has gotten weirder over the last two and a half years. I try to be realistic and not expect everyone and everything to be the same, but there's always an acute awareness that people have grown up, gotten older, and are moving into different stages in life (I'm the only girl from my former church who married in the last three years and doesn't already have at least one kid). Each time I'm reminded how relationships can dissolve unintentionally without the maintenance of weekly visits or chats, running into each other at family gatherings and church activities and in normal life.
I know its impossible to maintain all the relationships I had when I lived there. In a way it's probably abnormal that I've tried to keep up so many. My usual visits back home are packed to the brim with visits - coffee with a college friend, lunch with a childhood friend. Stopping by my old office to say hello to former coworkers, and dinner with yet another branch of my extended family.
This year I attempted to make make it less widely known that I was coming back, to be able to limit my visits a little more (It hasn't seemed to work for me yet). There are always people who surprise me with their interest in getting together, and others that force me to acknowledge we've moved on in our relationship.
It's easy for me to say that I don't miss back home, and for the most part that's true - . I love living in California. I love that E and I have had the opportunity to grow our marriage outside of the comfort and influence of my old circles of friends and family. I think its been healthy. But when I do go back I have to acknowledge that I'm a little sad about what I left behind. It's not just because I miss people and my former life, but because it won't ever be the same as it was. Visiting doesn't bring it back. It just serves as a reminder of what I don't and won't ever have.
So next time I visit my hometown, I won't be looking up every old friend, extended family member, coworker or mentor. I think I'll be content to remember that there are people who played a special role in my life at a specific time, and be grateful for it. And maybe it will be help me to be more present where I am, looking forward to where we'll go next. (a story for another day...)
I would love to hear from you guys who have moved away from home. What do you miss and what have you learned?