If you follow me, you know that my family and I recently left Vancouver BC, and moved back to my hometown in rural Ontario. If you’re new around here, that’s all the background you need to know to understand this post. With that said…
Here I am, living in my hometown.
I was gone for nine years – fell in love, had two children, changed careers and started my own business, suffered through and healed from an incredibly devastating physical injury, and also found my way through years of perinatal and post-partum depression. To say that they were formative years is a bit of an understatement.
I am not the woman I was when I last lived in this town.
It’s a powerful thing to live away from the place where everybody knows who you are. Away from the people who know your stories, who know the wins and losses that shaped you. There’s a sense of freedom that comes with it, an opportunity to leave behind the parts of you that no longer fit so that you may unearth the parts of you that will take you forward.
Because the roles you grew up playing, the boxes you did or did not fit in – they can hold you back. Keep you stuck, stagnant. Your opportunity for expansion, for growth, can be limited by the patterns and habits you associate with home, by the expectations of those who have known you forever.
[Tweet “Sometimes we need to be away from everyone who knows us to find ourselves.”]
I think this is why so many people feel the pull to leave their hometowns, particularly when they are small towns. There is a need to discover what life is like without everyone you’ve grown up with – without the teachers that watched you grow, the friends who you made all your dumbest decisions with. We need space to be ourselves in a more pure form, without falling back into a default self.
This is what I know to be true about my time in Vancouver: I lived a big life, full of joy and sorrow, and I managed each moment on my own, figuring out, day by day, exactly who I am. Living in a big city on the other side of the country I got to be whoever the fuck I wanted to be. I got to reinvent, to rediscover, to CHOOSE how I’m going to live in the world and do it without anyone asking why I’m so different or what happened.
And then I moved home… and the expectations of others, the old habits, the boxes I fit in or didn’t… they were all here waiting for me. With a thousand visual cues too… biking through the same streets, seeing the same buildings, even the same faces… I have moments these days when I feel like those nine years didn’t even happen.
Which causes me to freak out a little, because I don’t want to lose what I gained. I don’t want to go backwards. I don’t want to shrink.
But in your little hometown, it’s hard to not fall back into everything that you were before.
I think that’s why so many people never move back home. They’ve finally connected to a sense of self that feels true to them, a sense of self that they never want to lose and they fear that going back, to the same place, to the same people, will erase all the change. Because it’s hard to be different than you were in a small town. And if the you that you’ve become doesn’t fit in, it may feel impossible to return. I can think of one wonderful friend who now lives on the other side of the world, rocking a beautiful mix of city and beach culture… living in bikinis by day and heels by night…. How would she ever return here? To a town where tractors drive down the main street and you’ve got to jump on a plane if you want to catch some surf.
Sometimes “home” just doesn’t fit anymore. I get that. And that was my biggest worry before we moved.
And now, 5 months into living here, with the care-free days of summer behind us, I find myself pulled to re-navigate… to take time to assess Who am I here? These past few months I have easily sunk back into this life, telling people regularly that it feels like I never left. That it feels normal. But I’m realizing now, that I’m not OK with that. I can’t let my past become my present just because the streets and faces look the same.
I know I can live a life with more peace, with more compassion, with more nurturing than I used to offer myself a decade ago. I have worked so hard to develop a truer connection to self, a more conscious existence in the world. I can’t give that up. I have shed so many tears for that growth. I have written so many words to uncover my desires, my dreams, my wisdom. Deep breaths, meditations, beach walks and mountain summits – each a moment for reflection and growth. Each one making me more me.
We gain so much self-knowledge when we find ourselves somewhere no one knows us. We are gifted with the precious opportunity to start fresh. And when we choose to move home, because we so dearly miss our people, we must choose everyday to keep all those experiences in our heart, to maintain and continue our expansion. To show ourselves that all that we learned about ourselves when we were away, is true.
And then perhaps we will arrive at a true peace, one in which we integrate all of it. We accept and respect our past while continuing on our new path. We acknowledge that we are a sum of all our experiences and that our truest self, our purest wisdom, comes when we feel whole.