Leaving home was something every teenager yearned for, and every 20-something looks back on as a defining time in their lives. Overwhelmed with a wide range of emotion, this is pretty much what you came to realize throughout the process of life after hometown.
Growing up, your family was involved in the community or neighborhood or some friend group. You knew this because you couldn’t go anywhere without running into someone who recognized you, at which point you had to conjure up your best no-I-swear-I’m-actually-happy-to-see-you face. After leaving your hometown, you had this strange feeling whenever you went out. Eventually you realized that strange sensation was feeling relaxed because you no longer had to worry about who you would run into at the restaurant.
No longer did you have to deal with people referencing everything about your life, from the time your mother was pregnant to when you accidentally spilled beer all over Sarah Marshall’s hair at the prom after-party (hosted by the “cool parents”). If you wanted to be the mysteriously quiet intellect, you could. If you wanted to be everyone’s favorite bro, you had the power to make that happen.
Rather than waking up to feelings of inadequacy because everyone expected you to be like them, you could now do your thing. So what if big sis was awesome at violin – you hated violin! This meant you could explore your own passions without pressure to live up to family’s expectations of what you should be doing.
It kind of sucked at first, when you arrived in your new city that you would’ve thought was awesome if you could actually find anything in that town. And since you probably didn’t have a GPS back then, and certainly weren’t using Google Maps, you basically spent the majority of your free time driving around aimlessly trying to figure out where the heck the nearest coffee shop was.
At last, at last! Thank God, you were free at last! No more avoiding Michelle because she knows what you did last summer. Forget all the mistakes you made going through puberty. Let’s face it, there’s a large part of your growing up that you always wanted to forget. And leaving your hometown meant leaving all those painful memories behind.
It’s cool that you didn’t have to worry about running into people you somewhat disliked everyone you went, but now you had to meet new people. Which means you still had to go through that whole I’m-smiling-because-I’m-supposed-to thing. Except at this point the stakes were even higher, because if you didn’t make a good first impression, who were you going to hang out with? Who were you going to date? Who were you going to go with to the mall or semi-formal? Which can lead to our next point.
You took a massive dose of culture shock going from knowing everyone to no one, and that left you feeling a bit down in the dumps. Even though you were ready to leave home, you were comfortable in your hometown. You knew the people, the places, the back roads, which restaurants had the best deals on which nights. Now you just… you… well, you did nothing, because you didn’t know many people yet, if any, and you felt way to awkward scavenging your new terrain by yourself. But it did give you plenty of time to think.
You felt incredibly refreshed by the idea that you could do whatever the front door you wanted, and nobody could tell you otherwise. But then that freedom became overwhelming. What were you going to do? How is a teenager supposed to figure out what they’re going to do for the next sixty years? Friends and advisors didn’t help you with this debacle, and the only one that seemed to understand you was your pillow. And chocolate.
Sure, mom and pop were intrusive, annoying, infuriating, demanding, and every other negative adjective your angst-ridden self could muster. But after leaving your hometown you came to realize that hey, maybe they did know a thing or two about this crazy, messed up existence we call life. You started talking to them again, asking them for advice, and after several years of being in a new place you finally admitted there was no way you could’ve made it without them.
You did more growing up in your first year away from home than you did the rest of your life up until that point. But even though you learned a ton, it wasn’t necessarily the most joyous experience. You realized the world, despite the magnificence it holds, is basically the corporeal version of a menopausal psycho’s mind. Eventually you came to embrace and thrive in the world that terrorized you.
You came to grips with the fact that you wanted to go back and visit your hometown. You wanted to see your old favorite spots, and see how your old friends had changed, and enjoy your mom’s fantastic home-cooked meals that you didn’t realize were so freaking good until you spent the last week of every month eating cheap noodles and frozen pizzas. You realized you love the nostalgia that comes with your old stomping grounds. And most importantly you realized that your hometown really was a pretty great place to grow up.
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