Leaving home was hard. That’s kind of a given. I went to university 30 minutes away from my hometown, and Korea was my first real international trip. So, of course when I left it was a huge adjustment. That’s to be expected, but what I didn’t expect is that when the opportunity arose, I would feel anxious about returning home. Don’t get me wrong – I love Colorado, and I miss my family and friends; yet, the thought of returning to all that I knew before fills me with a very real anxiety. Not a panic attack ala the highschool days, but more of a low-level electrical current – it doesn’t hurt, but I can definitely feel it.
I’m not quite sure why I feel this way. Maybe because 15 months is a long time to be gone. Or maybe because I feel that I’ve changed so significantly that somehow I’ll no longer fit in the place that used to be mine. I removed myself from that particular tapestry, so maybe the other threads just closed in around where I used to be.
Though that fear is probably part of it, in my heart I know it’s not true. The love I have for my family and good friends, and the love they have for me lives in a place untouched by time and circumstance. If nothing else, that love is safe.
I think the reality is that I’m afraid I’ll revert to the person I was before I left.
I spent what sometimes feels like an eternity being sad, angry, and confused. From my parents divorce in high school, to various heartbreaks, to fighting for what felt like years with the people I care about most – I moved between emotional upsets like bees move between flowers. For so long I saw these problems as the fault of other people, but the older I got the more I began to see the power of my own agency. No matter the situation, there is still always a choice – the choice to be the better person, to not rise in anger no matter what someone says or does, and even the choice to walk away when something becomes irrevocably toxic.
I have always been drawn to the people with “problems” – people that both enthralled and repelled me, people whose darkness I took on as my own, people I wanted to save. Much later I realized that in trying to shoulder their burdens, not only was I running from my own problems, but I had also inflicted unforeseen damage on myself. In many ways, I was just as fucked – the drowning trying to save the drowned. The only difference was that I hid it better. Whatever the situation called for, I could always put on the correct face: the good student, the law-abiding citizen, the obedient child. In so many ways it was easier to focus on the people around me, than focus on myself.
I was sad. I was confused. I was fucking angry. Sad that I could never really save them, confused about the ever-elusive ‘why’, and angry at everyone I felt had failed me. Worse than that, I was angry because I felt I had failed myself. I was constantly pushing to do more, be more, to be perfect in every way possible. My own image was the one thing I could control, but no matter what I did, I would always come up short, because perfection is a fool’s errand.
It was a hard pill to swallow, but eventually I came to realize that good is better than perfect.
(Thank you Regina Spektor)
I’ve been working extremely hard to re-orient my perspective to one that is more positive and forgiving, not only towards other people, but also towards myself. Though I am in no way fully sorted, or fully at peace with the demons of my past, I have made a lot of progress. My life no longer feels like an emotional hurricane, constantly pushing, heaving – leaving me at the edge of a dark unreason. Though I said I felt like I was going crazy a couple weeks ago, that was more of an exaggeration than anything else. There was a time in my life when I truly did feel like I might lose my mind if I didn’t find a way forward, if I didn’t find a way out.
I would go a long way to avoid returning to how I felt even two years ago. I was as lost as lost could be, and it was awful. So when I say that I’m afraid to go home, I mean that I’m afraid to move backwards. I believe very firmly that I am 100% in control of myself, but habits and patterns of thought wrought over years are hard to break.
In my heart I know that if I truly want absolution, I need to be able to feel it no matter where I am. If I can only maintain personal change when I am not at home, then it is not real change – it’s simply another mask. It’s simply me adapting yet again to put on the right face at the right time. I sincerely hope that’s not the case. I don’t think it is. But that anxiety persists, nonetheless. I think all anyone can do it keep trying, keep fighting the good fight, and hope to God you aren’t just struggling in vain. I suppose only time will tell.
Originally posted in Morgan’s website.