Home Will Never Be The Same
The minute I stepped in I was surrounded. Sharpie doodles and messages covered every inch of the white-washed wall and as I walked up the stairs I couldn’t avert my eyes for a second. Not when every message had been written just for me.
“UNFORGETTABLE” “You’ll have the greatest time” “Dom Rep- 08/09” “Love Freya, Alice and Megan!” “Ghana 12/13 Team” “GOOD LUCK PROJECTS” “Best year of your life”
These were the writings on the wall, messages of encouragement from people who had been exactly where I was now. I mean, there was nothing particularly special about where I was, it was just a youth hostel. It was where I was going that was the important part. Where I could go. If I got selected that was.
Around me groups of teenagers lounged about, talking and laughing as if they’d been friends all their lives. I would soon find out that in reality many of them had met on planes or buses or trains mere hours before, or come across each other as they wandered around lost, both looking for the same destination. I arrived with my mum in toe, having been unsuccessful in shaking her off to let me go it alone. Secretly I was thankful for her presence, glad she hadn’t dropped me off at the door in a strange city where I knew no-one. Secretly. With my key and the wifi-password we were directed back downstairs to the dorm. Constantly surrounded by the writings on the wall.
“India -11/12” “THERE’S NOTHING LIKE IT” “embrace every second!” “SENEGAL – 2005” “home will never be the same”
After four days on a remote island with strangers who seemed way more prepared than I was, I left thinking my chances of being selected were slim. But even still, that message still passed through my mind. “Home will never be the same”. Already I was full of stories that my family could only partially understand. I constantly found myself saying ‘oh you had to be there’. Already, home didn’t seem the same to me.
In the few weeks before I came to India, all anyone was telling me was that I’d miss holidays with my family, that I’d miss having all the people I grew up with just a few minutes’ walk away, that I’d miss my favourite childhood foods and that homesickness would fade eventually. But what they didn’t realise is that wasn't the idea of leaving home that frightened me the most- but how much harder it will be once I get home again.
“Home will never be the same.”
Preparing to leave a place is a strange feeling, especially when that place is home. It’s an ache in your heart of all that you're leaving behind. It's left me feeling empty and uncertain. It’s more than just the pain I felt knowing I would miss my friends and family because I knew that I would miss them significantly. It's realising I won't be able to make it home for the weddings and birthdays and for my favourite band finally coming to my city, the city that won't be ever be mine like it was before.
It’s hard to accept that the people I love most in the world aren't right next to me when I need them, but instead they are thousands of miles away. I'm not able to feel their touch when I need a hug so desperately when I'm feeling lost and need someone to tell me it'll be okay. I'm not able to sit down with them and talk about my day; instead I have to call them on the phone just to hear their voice. It’s the start of a chapter without them, and that alone is greatly difficult.
As deep as the pain of feeling like I'm losing my best friends and a life I love, it goes deeper than that. Part of me feels like when I got on that plane in September I lost a part of myself. I don’t know exactly who I will be next or what the road ahead now holds. So I'm desperately clinging to the person I am because I know that when I return everything will be different, slightly or significantly.
I’m not the only teenager moving away from home. Many of my classmates have left our hometown for universities up and down the country. But there is one difference. They will be still be able to come home at weekends and be there for all of the big events. But, I’m over 7,000 miles away from my family. I’m in India and even if I really wanted to I'm not able to go home for the weekend.
“Home will never be the same”
I will always be foreign, over here. In India, I’ll always be a foreigner. But it frightens me to think that when I return home I will no doubt feel the same way. What if home never will be the same again? I worry that when I come home, this entire life I’ll have lived for a year, will suddenly be nothing more than a particularly vivid dream I once had. That I’ll see the same level of polite, feigned interest on my friends’ faces when I’ll try to explain how incredible this one meal was, or how much my friend back in India had this one terrible joke that always put me in a good mood. They won’t understand the music I listened to or the jokes I heard. I’ll try to translate, and I worry that none of it will come through.
I’ll spend so many nights on Skype, so many hours writing letters and sending emails from my nearly dinner time to their almost lunchtime and I’ll hope I’ll never feel too far from home. But I worry that when I come home I will want with everything in my body to go back. I worry that home won’t have same meaning anymore. That every day at home, this year will feel like something that only happened in my mind, something that will always be a nostalgia that no one shares, that will be as isolating as it is wonderful to think about. And while in the future I may on rare occasions, like weddings or very special trips, be able to unite my two worlds and see the important people together from all parts of my life, there will be dozens of “oh, you would love so-in-so” for every introduction. Nearly everyone from next year is likely to feel more like a figment of my imagination to everyone else.
Everyone told me that moving away would be hard, and it has been. But I worry that no one is telling me that it’ll be moving home again, to a place that will no longer contain everything that word is supposed to mean, will be harder.
I know that as we grow up we also have to accept that life can’t stay stagnant forever; we’re always growing, changing, adapting and evolving. There are still greater things waiting for us ahead and the only way to accomplish them is to let go of what’s behind.
If you just left school you will miss the feeling of the freedom you felt during that part of your life. You will miss how carefree and fun loving you were. You’ll miss how little responsibilities you actually had in the grand scheme of life. You’ll miss the person you were because in reality you will never be that way again, just like the place will never be the same again.
You can go back to visit your home town, but it will never be the same. You can always walk the halls of your highschool, but the students you pass will no longer be your classmates. You can peak your head into a classroom, but those teachers will no longer be teaching you. You can drive by your old house, but you can’t go inside. You can’t walk through the front door you've stepped in so many times because it’s become home to someone else now.
You will never be completely whole again, though. Part of your heart will always be somewhere else, with someone else. There are the pieces of you that will be left behind because you've put your whole heart into loving people and places and when you leave, part of your heart will eternally stay.
You’ve left part of yourself in the different parts of your life. You’ve become a different version of the person you’ve left behind. Maybe that is why it is so hard for us to move on sometimes because we’ve left pieces of ourselves behind everywhere we’ve been.
You’ll not only miss the people, but you miss the person you were at that time and the place you grew to love because as a whole it will never be that way again, just like you will never be that way again. It's a hard but ultimately beautiful thing.