What No One Ever Tells You About Leaving Home
By Aira Maligon
You may never come back.
You start off by resenting home. You’ve been here your whole life. You’ve explored every crevice, every dive, every overpriced coffee shop and you’ve tried every overpriced spicy iced chai you could find. You’re convinced that you’ve seen all that home can offer and for you, it’s just not enough. You know this place like the back of your hand. There’s nothing new. There’s nothing for you here anymore. You’re over it. You want to see more, you want to do more, you want to be anywhere but there for the rest of your life. You start off by resenting home.
You move onto planning. You’re getting out of there if it kills you because if you don’t get out of there, it might kill you. You research cities, jobs, apartments, quality of life. You spend a lot of time on Google Maps, virtually walking around and daydreaming about the new life you’re going to create for yourself. You spend a lot of time on Yelp. You figure out what your new favorite brunch spot will be before you even step foot in the door. You find where you’ll disappear to; you figure out how to make that happen. You plan and plan and plan until you’re ready to go.
Then, all of a sudden, you’re finally ready to go. Some days, it seemed like you would be scheming your escape forever but now here you are and you have to admit, it crept up on you fast. The lease is signed, the job was offered, your childhood is packed in boxes that you’re shipping to yourself! You say your goodbyes and realize that you’re not good at saying goodbye. You spent months and months and months planning, but you didn’t plan for the overwhelming feelings that paralyze you a few days before you leave your home and everyone and everything you know.
You leave everything you know and you don’t know shit. You don’t know where the gyms are, why the roads become one-way streets at certain parts of the city, or where you can find a decent spicy iced chai. You don’t really know your coworkers, you don’t know any of the bartenders—your tab has never been that high, it’s horrible—and you’re not a regular anywhere so saying, “I’ll take my usual” is just a far-off dream. You left everyone you know and now introductions and small talk and superficial questions are your new normal. You spend a lot of nights alone because you’re just that: alone. You tell yourself it’ll get better.
Thankfully, it gets better. You find your niche, you find some friends, you find your favorite restaurants and bookstores and overpriced coffee shops. You spend your weekends taking too many shots, eating too many carbs and complaining about Mondays. You told yourself it would get better and it got better, didn’t it? You’re happy. You’re so proud of yourself. You know you can survive and adapt, and you’re stronger now because of it. You carved out a nice place for you to belong where you once jutted out like a raw and ragged stone. It got better. It got better! But…it’s still not home, is it?
Home is where you left everything you knew. It’s where your little sister is going to her first dance and you are not there to help her with her hair or makeup. It’s where your best friend is getting engaged and you are not there to congratulate them. It’s where your other friend is going through their first major heartbreak and you are not there with ice cream and kind words and drinks out after they’ve gotten past the sweatpants phase. It’s where your parent is growing older and you are not there to share your stories at dinner once a week. Home is where the moments you can never get back are happening without you. You are gone, so there is nothing you can do about it. You fooled yourself into thinking that you are the one leaving, so everything must remain the same. But it doesn’t. Life goes on even if you are not there.
It’s not fair. You’ve grown because you left. You grew where there was no familiar soil. You did it by yourself, for yourself and it’s not fair. You wished you could’ve grown at home but you did not have enough room to expand. You were being smothered by familiarity and excessive comfort. You needed to allow yourself to evolve. You were destined for more. You had to leave home…right?
No one tells you that you should go back—they don’t want to stunt your growth. No one tells you that you should stay—they don’t want to be responsible for your unhappiness. It seems like no one truly misses you or would miss you at all. You sip on the idea of arriving home—luggage under arms, tail between your legs—gingerly like you think someone might’ve slipped a Molly in your double vodka cran but you low-key want to get faded. You want someone to make the decision for you. You want something to happen that could be considered an epiphany. You begin to realize that loving where you came from can be considered a strength and not a weakness.
No one ever tells you that you should come home.