I have not been a lot of places, and consequently I have not returned from many places. I have found myself in small circles, gravitating in chunks towards the same places for most of my life. Peterborough, Oshawa; West Coast to East Coast. Generally my times away are never long enough for coming home to be a thing of consequence, and the times I have been absent significantly have been times when returning home was of great differential significance as well.
Alas, after my longest period away from my home in my life, I am also coming back to a home that is mine. I am not under a parents or guardians roof, I am amongst my own idiosyncratic tendencies and I do not have to ask if I can throw things away or move them.
So when I returned home, not much had changed. My belongings were still in the loft, my roommate is still my best friend, my dog is still a big lolling goof, and my job is the same as well (maybe a few more things are broken but isn’t that the way with everything, really?) And so I had left a neat, concise me-shaped cutout from the fabric of my life and when I returned different everything else had still remained almost exactly the same.
I’m not the kind of person to want to stitch myself back in like a patch – not anymore anyway – but really what it felt like was this world was held in time, a parallel universe in a loop that I was coming back into and I was fitting myself into a thing that never changed (and a thing I never wanted to change) now finding myself wanting to change it. Because I intended to have a different experience in this loop.
I realized without ever having to try that this wasn’t going to work, because I was the only one who had changed, and if I needed change I would have to be the one that was implemented. So it became a question of how, in this environment, can I be different without it affecting the culture of the loop? How do I become comfortable here with this?
It’s been three weeks since my return and I don’t know if I have an answer. I haven’t written seriously for a month, I have worked out less than a handful of times, and I’m still obsessive about how and what needs to be clean in my apartment. Even with my partner now living with me, not much has changed except that I’m down a couple of drawers and I don’t have to do the dishes as much.
I wouldn’t say that I’m uncomfortable. In fact, I feel almost too comfortable. After four and a half months of feeling out of place and wishing I was home it now feels like, in a way, I didn’t really have those experiences.
It’s the small things that affect me the most. These minuscule non-problems that know all the openings and over-laps in my skin the best; not being able to find my favourite t-shirt, crumbs left on the counter, forgetting how many grams of coffee to measure out for our filters at work. Insignificant oversights to the rest of the world, and the back breakers for me.
While away I learned to deal with a lot of important things. For instance, how to not use all of my energy on good days which almost automatically results in no energy for the next day. How to not let jealousy control my actions. Who to go to for advice. Why leaving toxic people out of the picture is more important for the future than the role they’ve played in the past. When to pick at fight at 2AM and when to let things go.
But what I’m realizing is that these lessons – these big things – were things I was a lot less resilient to because these changes and circumstances were my life at the time. And in Toronto, my life is my apartment and my friends and my work – this solid loop that hasn’t changed. And the one thing I didn’t learn, was how to focus on the good when things are good. So while I learned a lot that was detrimental to my survival and happy existence outside of this world, these lessons weren’t as important to my “real” life as I would have like to believed. That is to say, who I am here hasn’t changed much because of who I was there.
It’s one thing when all things feel difficult and shitty to look on the bright side of life, but when life is shining okay it’s a lot more natural to look for the things that are dimming it. Like my credit card bill, or that I have to visit both of my work locations to get two separate pay cheques, or that my favourite candle is going to run out soon.
I guess what I’m trying to figure out is why these things are still so important to me? Why after all this time away, I’m more comfortable looking at the problems than the solutions? Why the same regulars at work still need a gut-punch? Why I have trouble removing myself emotionally from things that I don’t need to get emotional about?
I didn’t expect returning to be easy. As much as here was my silver lining to most of my difficulties while travelling, that glamour didn’t transfer very well to the present. The question now is not how to change it to what I want it to be, but how to look at it for what it is in a way that changes how it can be for me. Because I don’t want things to be the same, I’m not ready to propel backwards into what was just because I’m coming back into how things were.
Written by Forest Greenwell