The other day I raced home after completing a summer-long road trip across the United States. I woke up in Colorado Springs and was looking at a 1,500-mile drive back home to Bel Air, Maryland. I had no place to stay in between–I was just going to rely on adrenaline and double shots of espresso(always awesome) to get me where I needed to go.
It took me 36 hours with a short three-hour nap sandwiched in between.
The drive was beautiful. I cut through Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania for the last four hours, and I was taken back with how stunning fall looked in the American Northeast.
It’s funny because I went to school in Pennsylvania, and considered it the worst state in America for the longest time. I spent four long winters up there while dreaming of palm trees in Florida. Needless to say I drove home after graduation like Vin Diesel, exiting that state as quickly as I possibly could. But the other day I felt something I couldn’t believe–I actually enjoyed driving through Pennsylvania.
There was a sign I saw that read “keep Pennsylvania beautiful,” and for the first time in my life I agreed wholeheartedly. It got me wondering just how much I’ve changed since being away, and how coming home can make you notice things.
It’s a little sad, though. For some reason I develop a melancholy feeling whenever I come home. I remember that these things did in fact happen, and I did live in that room, and I did raise those dogs standing in the doorway. They must’ve thought I’d forgotten about them. Even now, at 23, I’m realizing that time waits for no one, and that’s troubling to me.
But I am back, and it only took me a few days to notice a few key things. Here they are.
- ### How Far You’ve Come Since You Left
I met up with my childhood best friend the other day and we got to talking about my trip. He was fascinated with my time in California, but I was equally as fascinated with how much he had changed. My friend was wiser, more confident (always was, though), and just interesting to talk with. You know how there’s always an awkward moment when seeing an old friend again? There was none with him. We hit it off immediately just like old times.
What really discombobulates me is how long him and I have been friends. Five years ago we would often do the same thing–hang out in a room and chat about whatever our hearts desired.
But I’m not the same. There’s things that have happened to me (and to him as well) that both of us don’t have a clue about. Both of us, in different places, have grown into new beings based on experiences that neither of us know about. You get perspective when you come back home.
- ### How Home Is A Trap
Today I saw an old friend working the counter at Planet Fitness. After walking out of the gym I saw another friend waiting for a mowing truck I used to work in to pick him up. He has been working for that company for almost a decade.
My backyard looks the same. The neighbors are still the same. Everybody hasn’t left. I’m not bashing them, I’m just telling it like it is.
On the other end of the United States is a place with opposite political views, social programs, and environments. I’m talking about San Francisco, and California in general, by the way. It just seems like my home town is a place where nobody leaves and everybody thinks the same.
To me, it’s a trap–but any place can be a trap, you just need to get out and see other things.
- ### Why You Left
Coming back home is like sliding into a hot tub. It’s fantastic for the first little bit but then you get used to it. I understand why I left, even after just one week back. I don’t want to leave right now, but I understand why my 22-year-old self wanted to hit the road and move to Florida.
Maybe there was a little bit of insecurity, maybe there was some anger, but I really left because I wanted to experience new things and learn about the world.
- ### How Gorgeous It Really Is
Living in Maryland right now is like living in The Shire. There are endless fields of crops, a bright sun bathing the earth in sunlight, and a calm wind constantly blowing in my face. The beauty is kind of overwhelming, with the oranges and yellows and reds of fall along with a constant shower of leaves making their descent to the ground. I haven’t seen a proper fall in three years.
I got used to other places recently–more specifically Florida–that I got un-used to Maryland, if that makes sense. Now that I’m back I can appreciate it.
- ### Who You Used To Be
I feel naked when I see an old friend–like they know so much about me that most others don’t. I don’t know, I’m 23 right now and most of the stuff that happened to me when I was 15, 16, or even 18 are things I don’t remember. I’ve been so engulfed with new places and new people that I haven’t spared much time to think about who I used to be at all. But coming back home is like heating something up from way back in the refrigerator that you forgot about.
I remember who I used to be now. This place IS who I am. I will forever be an alumni of Bel Air High School. I will forever be called “Thomas” by family members. I will forever call Maryland my one true home.
I was so busy this summer seeing the hometowns of my friends. I noticed how comfortable they were there, and how they knew all the roads. But this is the place that I know. This is the place that shaped me. And after seeing everybody else’s home, it’s nice to come back to mine and have a new perspective on good ol’ Bel Air, Maryland.