You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone.

I’m officially done with my third week of finals.

I escaped with a B in organic chemistry, dark circles under my eyes, and an extreme addiction to dirty chai — but I made it.

Now I’m home.

A part of me wonders if it’s wrong to be feeling the way I do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying my break. But I don’t want to be home. Every time I return to find my family more assimilated into the life here, I am reminded how much I don’t belong here. I didn’t move here from my hometown. I moved away to college and this is the occasional pit stop when they close the dorms.

There’s something off when I arrive here. Part of me wonders if it’s me.

I get the customary hugs from everyone and the “I’m glad you’re home!” I get to surprise my little brother at his school jazz concert and I get to help my sister edit a paper for school. Then, when the dust settles from my arrival and I noticed that somehow the dust of this place has been shaken off my shoes already, I slip into my basement bedroom to unpack. In the space of an hour, I am forgotten.

I have been replaced by my ghost.

“Remember when Sydney would cook dinner for us because she had the sloppy joe recipe memorized?” I am cooking right now! I cry out, only to find that my voice has been drowned out by the sound of food lifted to mouths, teeth chomping down on the same sloppy joe they just referenced.

“Remember when Sydney would play outside with me? I just offered to play with you but you didn’t want to go outside because you said it was too cold! I remind him, but he’s too engrossed in the football game on TV to hear my voice.

“Remember when Sydney would help decorate for Christmas?” I would have, but I was at school because I had finals!” I excuse, but they can’t hear me over the carols playing on the radio.

My ghost and I inhabit the same house. This house is haunted to me.

How can I come back here and belong when there’s part of me that never came and belonged in the first place? How can I come back here and sit at the dining room table when they have become so accustomed to the paler, less-real, distant version of myself sitting in that very seat? How can I come back and belong when they don’t need my contribution to make the family function normally?

Maybe that’s just it.

Maybe I can’t.


2 thoughts on “You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone.

  1. The process of leaving home is a gradual one (for both you and the rest of the family) and what you are feeling is universal to all young adults who are building a life elsewhere and then come home and try to fit back into a role / lifestyle that used to fit fine but feels a bit constricting now. Your situation is compounded by the family moving to a new home while you were away at school. Your description of your experience reminds me of the advice given to expats living in a foreign country and about to return home, which is something along the line of “you remember home the way it used to be but it isn’t that way anymore – the people there have changed while you have been gone but you have changed even more due to your new experiences (which the home folks will never completely understand)”. People often think of going someplace new (either a new country or to college) as a cross-cultural move / experience (and it is). However, most folks don’t realize that going home is also a cross-cultural experience and, as such, needs preparation and perseverance to avoid expectations (yours and theirs) being violated all over the place. You are in the process of “leaving home” as you continue with your education and new friends of all sorts but it doesn’t mean you need to stop loving your family – you just have to work through all those darn expectations and grow into a new relationship with your family which is based on “what’s now” rather than “what used to be”. Hope this insight from one who has left many times helps.

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