I once saw a quote that read “Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” I don’t think I quite knew at the time what that meant, but I wanted to. I wanted to understand. I had always wanted to leave because of the leaving, not the coming back. I wanted to leave because of the chase. The running. The escape. The promise that leaving would be anything but boring, mundane, average or mediocre. I wanted to leave because it was pushing the envelope over the edge. It was the hard way, but I push myself best when challenged. I can’t resist the temptation of reward. The promise of growth.
I thought long and hard about leaving. What I was leaving behind, what I was gaining. What occupied the 2,000 mile space between my old life and my new life. The parts of home that would remain constant and withstand the separation. What ties would break. I was aware of the risks. I realized that this wasn’t a short-term escape, it was a life. A new life that I had to build. On my own. So I thought of these things, when I thought about leaving. But I didn’t think much about coming back.
Each time I visited home over the last year, it felt like I had never been gone. I picked up right where I left off. The comforts of home. Everything is second nature, from navigating the city to bumping into familiar faces while at the store. There are parts of life that subtly drift away and then one day there they are again. And that’s when it hits you, how much you miss them. My streets. My people. My community.
I never could decide if I left those visits feeling sad or refreshed. Perhaps a little of both. Refreshed because there’s just something about feeling at home. With your people. In a city that belongs to you as much as you belong to it. Sad because, again, I was leaving it behind. Sad because it wasn’t the same here in LA. Because sometimes there are days when the exciting challenges of change and growth are discouraging instead. Because sometimes the running and the escaping and the envelope pushing are more exhausting than they are rewarding. And having moments like that all alone is much harder than when you’re surrounded by your tribe.
I went home last week for the first time this year. Six whole months without seeing any of my people. That was a first. But it was good for me. In that time, I planted some roots here. I experienced more comfort. I started building my home space. I began writing stories. Letting characters and plot lines develop. I went home and suddenly understood. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving. You see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. I’m not sure why, but this time around, I experienced home with a new perspective. Maybe it’s because my life here is more established now. I have a new second nature. I have a new stomping ground. I’m used to missing Ohio when I’m in LA. I wasn’t used to missing LA, at least so much.
My first year here was not as simple and smooth as I had expected. I missed the home that I felt I had lost. I felt frustrated at times that I had let go of something great. That what remained wasn’t living up to the dream. But now, I not only saw where I came from with new eyes, but I saw where I am now with new eyes. It had unfolded before me. A new life. I didn’t lose what I had. I was creating more of it. I looked back over the last year and could see with more clarity the progress I had made for myself. I realized that something beautiful and scary and messy was taking shape. I was creating a new chapter in my life story, after being stuck so long on the last one.
I took the time and space away from the distractions of my LA life and examined where I could go from here. If I’ve already made it this far, what do I want next? I came back to LA with more clarity and a lot of motivation. And, finally, comfort. Comfort in leaving, comfort in returning. Comfort in being.