In a recent post I talked about the tension and pain that can occur at family gatherings over the holiday period. This post is on a similar theme. It’s about returning to your hometown, which I’m about to do, and how that can stir up a complicated mix of memories that be both comforting and confronting.
Geographical places carry vibrations all their own. This is why you can visit a location and instantly feel at home there, while other cities leave you cold or feeling on guard.
I have great affection for the town I grew up in. I could not live there again – it’s too small for me, and I get bored there – but I love returning and immersing myself in its sleepy, beachy vibe. It’s the place where my internal compass resets to true north. Of course it helps that many of my favourite humans and dogs reside there.
However, many of my other favourite humans live in a city that raises my heart rate for all the wrong reasons. This place makes me feel on edge. I lived there for 11 years, all up, but never felt a connection with it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this city. In fact, there’s a lot that’s right with it. It boasts beautiful coastlines, wide skies and expansive parks. But it just never felt right for me. Living there was like putting on a coat every morning that didn’t sit right on my shoulders and didn’t hang close enough to keep me warm. Although I made some wonderful friends in my time there, I never felt like I truly belonged in that city.
I am nervous about returning to this place over the Christmas period because the last two years that I lived there, I was miserable. It is difficult for me to separate my feelings about all that is great about this city from the way it made me feel (not that I’m blaming the city for that!). When I go back there, my past sadness tugs at my sleeves. It’s a weighty, intangible thing that bounces between the volcanoes, striking an echo only I can hear. I’ve visited only once since I moved to Sydney, and although I loved catching up with friends and was sad to say goodbye to them, I could not wait to leave.
This time I have planned my trip to make sure that peace, not unease, is my overall experience. I fly in close to Christmas so that I can head straight to my hometown. I have limited the amount of time I spend in the city after Christmas and am making sure I only catch up with people who I truly want to see, as opposed to people I feel obliged to see. This time around, there are no big gatherings at pubs or cafes. I am only seeing people on a one-to-one basis, mostly at their homes or at beaches, where we can have solid conversations and actually connect.
Of course there will still be some encounters that leave me feeling uncomfortable. You cannot, after all, edit experiences – life is not an Instagram feed (unfortunately). The past is a nice place to visit but you cannot stay there. And I think that’s for the best.
I wish you peace this holiday period. Wherever you go, whoever you see, I hope that you remember to carry peace with you. Hold on to that.