Disclaimer: there isn’t, so far as I have found, a right way to feel about this. It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with the way I feel about it, so it’s only fair I let those who feel otherwise do so freely too. Ok, now go ahead and read.
The car slows to a crawl and you turn to stare out the window, unbelieving that a house could change so much. The yard’s overgrown with weeds, the grass has yellow patches in it and the blue door you worked so hard to paint with your mom is now faded and peeling. You try not to stop, but your foot won’t leave the brake pedal and you sit there in the middle of the road–glad this is suburbia and nobody’s around to honk at you. You pull over to the side of the road eventually, still staring at the house you thought you’d never leave. The world’s pretty small when you’re seven, you realize. You thought the playhouse would always sit in the backyard, the drapes would always look like summer and that the sounds of little feet would always run up and down the halls of that house. No more chasing your dad around the front yard, no more baking cookies with your mom on a Sunday afternoon–no more being little and looking out at the world with big, new eyes. You feel a breath deflate from your chest and stare at the transmission of your car. Although the house is still there, your home is gone–and you can’t go back.
This story isn’t mine, but it does belong to a dear friend of mine–someone I aspire to be like. She sounded so wistful, so melancholy that for a second I could only sit with my head spinning. I’d never felt that–never. I’d heard about it, I’d read about it, seen it in play now–but I still couldn’t relate. I’ve changed schools six times, moved, gone back to visit, and left home. But I’ve never felt that wistful for the times past. A past home, a past mode of living, a past at all–it’s there for a reason, in my mind. If it was truly important, I took it with me. And if I couldn’t take it with me, I found a way to recreate it. Why then should I miss what was? Better to cherish it–and then turn with excitement to what it now is. Friends change, old loves move on, and circumstances vary. I say re-aquatint yourself that friend, learn again how to love and either find joy in your present circumstance or make a way to change it. That’s what Park Soo-ha decides to do in I Hear Your Voice, and it turned out well for him (watch it, it’s good).
It’s the last day in your house–the last time you’ll see your family in this light again. You’re leaving, moving out, moving on. For some it’s a day of excitement, freedom from restrictions and bad memories. For others it’s death, the death of the only thing they’ve known up until this moment. For me it was neither. It’s simply a change, and one I expected. One to plan for and accept and move on. Does that mean I won’t miss my mom and baking cookies with her on Sunday afternoons? No, I’ll miss her–but I don’t look to return to those times. Does that mean I’m ecstatic to leave and be free? Well, no–I don’t really want to have to pay for everything myself, honestly. So is there nothing you will always miss? Nothing you will wish could simply stay the same, changeless, forever?
No. If it has changed, I will cherish the memory but not wish for it to come back–if I truly loved it the way I wanted to then it’s best left in the past, as a building block of who I am today. I don’t need to miss or revisit or long for the past, because I carry it with me.
In the inner conversation that followed, I thought maybe they were right–I’m in for a rude awakening someday, when I wake up one day and suddenly realize I cannot return–and that’s a bad thing. But for the moment, I still cannot comprehend that. I have taken everything important about those places–about my old house, my old friendships, my old life–with me. And if I could not take it with me, that is not a reason to mourn or feel melancholy–it is an opportunity to learn something new, to look forward and seek to build. The past is meant to be used for today and loved, not mourned.
Another thought came then that–and this came from the hiding voice, the dark one that waits and sneaks about in the corners of our minds–that maybe there is something wrong with me, that I’m missing something important. But according to my mom, I come by it honestly. My grandma was the same way, pragmatically handling her mother’s death and getting back to work. She still loved her grandma, and she loves the time they spent together–but she doesn’t Just because I don’t get sad at graduations or moving or funerals doesn’t mean I’m not human or that I don’t feel the loss of what was, just that I process emotion and attachment differently.
A talk I heard in a recent general conference applied what I am talking about–nostalgia for a specific home, a specific moment–to a more spiritual avenue. He said this:
“May I respectfully suggest that our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son do not intend for us to experience such a feeling of spiritual renewal, refreshment, and restoration just once in our lives. The blessings of obtaining and always retaining a remission of our sins through gospel ordinances help us understand that baptism is a point of departure in our mortal spiritual journey; it is not a destination we should yearn to revisit over and over again.”
Read it again, applying it to your past and childhood. Youth is a place to start, not a place to return to. If we wish to feel it again, then we recreate it and build it further, not revisit over and over again in the same state. If it truly is our home, we build and carry it with us.
This is all just my own opinion, though. What do you think?
So what spurred this Just a Thought?
Well, Steinbeck. In John Steinbeck’s Travel’s With Charley (and ha, you already know how I feel about that), he goes back to his hometown and ends up depressed for a little while over how much it’s changed. I have since made my peace–mostly–with Steinbeck, and have agreed to disagree on the majority of his writing. If there’s something that gave you thoughts, give them to me! I’ll read them!