There's a saying in life that I always heard growing up.
You can’t go home again.
It means different things to different people. Some people take it to mean once you are grown, you don’t go back home. Others think it means the fondness of childhood memories are never truly recaptured as an adult. Still others view it as a simple saying that tells you once you leave a place or a situation, you just can’t return and have it be like it once was.
Regardless of how you take it, there is a struggle in life we all face with the question of is it possible to go back home. Whether your definition of home is where you grew up, where you lived when you were your happiest, the fondness of childhood memories, or an old relationship...
Once you leave, can you return and have it be like it once was? Or should you even want it to be?
I will fully admit I have been guilty of being a bridge burner. You know, the type of person who is so afraid of being hurt or so afraid of failure or so afraid of what will never be that you simply block out that piece of life so that you don't have to deal with the hurt and disappointment that may come along with it. It’s definitely gotten better with age, and I am proud to say I no longer burn bridges to hide from the possibility of pain. But as a young adult, it was my go-to. I remember losing my grandfather at the age of 18 and never wanting to go back to their farm because the pain was too much to bear. I remember getting into a disagreement with my high school best friend over something so stupid and ultimately shutting down and shutting her out because I was afraid of getting hurt. I remember going through a major life change about 7 years ago and not knowing where I needed to be, but knowing it was anywhere except where I was. So I picked up and ran. Those are bridge burner moments…when you run to avoid.
I think as we age, there is a conscious shift from the seeking of happiness or the running away from sadness, to the awareness that perhaps happiness was hiding where it was the whole time and sadness is a burden that needs to be faced. Perhaps it is the fact that you realize time is finite and life is constantly ticking. Perhaps it is the fact that running just becomes exhausting. Perhaps it is that all of life’s experiences filter together and fill up the holes that pain and loss have left. Whatever the reason, something shifts. Something changes. And then again, it stays the same.
In his book, You Can’t Go Home, Thomas Wolfe writes “Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same. Lean down your ear upon the earth and listen.”
About 8 years ago, I started to listen.
One fall day, I managed to face the pain and walk back through my grandparent’s farm. It was abandoned and in desperate need of repair, which broke my heart. I cried as I sat in the front hallway. Being there hurt. Feeling again hurt. But instead of wanting to run, I forced myself to sit there and remember and feel. Remember the Sunday dinners. Remember the smell of my BigDaddy’s cigar burning. Remember the smell of a poundcake baking. Remember the good and the beautiful and the simplicity of life. And by remembering, I began to heal.
A couple of years later, social media allowed me to find that very special friend I had lost so many years before. It allowed me to say how sorry I was, and how I promised to never, ever run again. Adding her back into my life was like breathing a breath of clean air after years of breathing smoke. It was amazing. We talked, we laughed, we cried, we healed. I was blessed to be her matron of honor, and had the honor of creating the flowers for her wedding. It was, and always will be, one of the most special gifts I have ever been able to give to another person or to receive in return.
Mending bridges mends hearts. It dusts away the spider webs, puts fears back in boxes, and lifts weights from shoulders. It is healing.
Through the healing and the reconnecting and the remembering, there was still one thing I had to deal with. One thing that I really had to put my ear upon the earth and listen for. One thing that was still missing and a bridge that still sat, burned and unable to be crossed.
I wanted to go home. My family wanted to go home.
About a year ago, our little unit of 4 started a conversation about moving back to the town when our children were born. Where many of our friends still lived. Where memories were made. Where the land was open and the hills were rolling and the air clean. Where ponds and streams dotted the countryside. There is something about familiarity and beauty that draw the heart towards it every single time. However, the bridge home was burned when we left. It was mainly an emotional one that was only visible within our own hearts and in our own minds. Burned bridges make for easy dealings. It is easy to heal things when you don't have to face them anymore. But time has taught me that you cannot allow burned bridges to remain. You either have to tear them down completely so that they do not leave a mark on the land they were built upon, or you have to begin the process of mending, one board at a time. We’ve been mending this one for a few years now, and we think it is time to cross over to the other side. In the words of Thomas Wolfe, “Peace fell upon her spirit. Strong comfort and assurance bathed her whole being. Life was so solid and splendid, and so good.” We’re crossing back over. We’re going home.
In less than a month, our little unit will pack our bags, pack our boxes, gather the zoo of animals, say goodbye to those we love so dearly on this tiny island, and venture home. Not exactly home. We sold our farm long ago to dear ones who love it more that we ever did. But, we are moving back to the area that fills our hearts with joy and peace and love and optimism.
When people ask why would we ever leave this little island paradise, it’s hard to explain. But I guess the easiest thing is to say we want to go home.
That old saying was wrong.
You can go home. You just have to want it bad enough.