That said, occasionally I go back to places I have lived and I discovered something.
The adage “you can’t go home again” isn’t accurate. Sometimes you can. But it’s shifted.
I returned to a town in Florida last week for a friend’s daughter’s wedding. I lived there from 2001 to 2010. I had not been back since 2012 when I attended a trade show. That year I saw tiny changes and growth. Nothing disturbing. I felt weird about being there as both good and bad memories knocked at my consciousness. By the time I had driven from the airport to my friend’s house, I understood that how I felt about the place was up to me. I could choose to remember all the crap (and man there was a LOT of it) that went down there. Or, I could acknowledge that bad crap and then politely tell it I had already dealt with it in spades (and after thousands in therapist hours and fees), and it could leave. A deep breath and I invited in the good stuff that happened there and a wonderful thing happened. Gratitude. My second son was born there. I had made incredible friends I will keep for life there. I had a great job. My oldest learned to swim… the list went on. I resolved to move past the crap.
This time the town I went back to barely resembled the town I had left in 2010 or even the town I had seen in 2012. It was angrier. Busier. Full of uncontrolled growth. There was more traffic, more faces, and fewer places I recognized. I realized I was looking at a place from the outside – no longer as a former resident. I had never lived in this town. Not in this incarnation. It was weirdly disturbing. Very uncomfortable. I was thankful for the friends who were still there to help me adjust to the new version of the town. I didn’t find it an improvement. There were more conveniences (and convenience stores!), an ER, a ton of new restaurants (mostly chains), and more traffic lights. I drove past my kids’ old schools, and a house I used to own.
I was on the outside looking in – there was glass between me and it. That glass was time. I was older. So was the town.
Why did I think it would not change? Would not grow? I have.
Which made me wonder. In novels I read, characters go back to places they have lived after a decent passage of time and find the places UNCHANGED. Is that ever realistic?
After visiting three or four towns I have lived in in my lifetime. Every single one had changed in an almost violent, frantic, way.
Will I go back to places I have lived? Sure. Now though, I am prepared for my emotional reaction upon seeing something as seemingly insignificant as the ice cream shop I took my kids to… now shuttered.