Homeward Bound, Bound to Home
Like many of us, I was so ready to leave my hometown when I graduated high school. I couldn’t wait to go somewhere where nobody knew me and take the opportunity to start over completely. I would be an entirely new person in Charlottesville, I told myself. I would wear new clothes, make new friends, find the new me — whatever it was that people did in college.
And to be fair, some of those things did happen — I’m no longer rocking those bootleg jeans from first year, thankfully. But more than finding new trends and styles, I’d like to think my biggest changes have been on a deeper, spiritual level. My hometown, when I left it, felt empty. I thought I had discovered all of the secrets my little Maryland town had to offer. I knew when the cookies at the Safeway bakery would be fresh, I knew the not-so-secret coffee shop that everyone went to but wanted to pretend no one else knew about. I knew which thrift store had the best selections and on which days to go. I knew home, and I was ready to escape.
When I went to college, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I found new hole-in-the-wall restaurants and secret coffee shops. I thought I had life figured out. Maryland was not where it was at — Charlottesville was.
But as wonderful an escape as Charlottesville has been for me, going back home has become more an exercise in change than a chance to reminisce about who I was first year.
I always expected the place I came from to stay the same, like a memorial to the teenager I once was. But the next summer, when I returned to Maryland for more than a few days, the change it had gone through almost overwhelmed me. My “secret” coffee shop closed, probably because it stopped making money when my entire senior class left town. Safeway’s bakery no longer made cookies. And the Goodwill intake rotation had changed, meaning when I went thrifting on my usual day there were no treasures to be found — only heartbreak and muumuus.
In the four years since I left home, my hometown has added two gigantic shopping centers. It has its own Target. It is officially on the map, and the change seemed to happen overnight.
It used to be my entertainment options were to pick my nose in my room or drive an hour to window shop at an upscale mall. But now there is a multiplex, and the drive from the convenience store that used to take two minutes takes closer to 15.
It broke my heart a little at first, to realize that time was not in fact standing still. I wasn’t the only one affected by change. Just as I could grow and reinvent myself, so could the places and the people I had left behind. As ridiculous as it sounds, it was a little humbling. Time isn’t going to stop, and I should stop expecting it to.
Simone’s column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.