"What am I doing here?" I will whisper to myself. To ease the panic I can feel growing, I say reassuring things to ground me to this spot and this moment with some sort of logic or tie that my heart understands. "You were born here, a few blocks away. Your dad was born here. Your grandmother lived down the road. Your parents' first house was five minutes away." It helps. Sometimes I go to my aunt's house, a short drive through a tunnel. because it's the same house that it always was: so many things are different, but its sameness reminds me that the things and places that have disappeared were real. They happened. They existed. I didn't dream them and wake up just this second to my actual reality.
It's not that this reality is bad, lord no. It feels sweeter now, and more consistently sweet, than it has in a long time. This afternoon I sat happily in my own library, surrounded by books, my beloved cat in my lap, and listened to the rain fall on the trees outside. I tried to read, but looked up constantly to survey this home that I have bought and made, all on my own. The feeling of calm and of pride was so great it almost made me cry. But I so often these days find myself not quite being able to connect the dots, from Home to Here.
If I had to guess, I'd say this sense of disorientation is part of growing older, when your story becomes so long that you can't easily connect the first chapters to the middle. Or, it's part of having wandered for the better part of 15 years and made a place for myself in multiple cities, continents, workplaces, friendships. Maybe it's part of having travelled so much of this journey solo. It makes me understand why people who have long ago left their hometowns sell up, move back, and settle down, send their kids to the schools they went to, reconnect with childhood friends. It has to do with wanting to feel a sense of belonging to a place, a time, a community, a past self.
This alienness also makes me realize that this life I'm leading now, as unfamiliar as it may seem in this instant, is the only life I have to lead. I'm not going to "finish", or graduate, and return home to some past life. Those echoes of the past are really just that - a recollection, an intangible, unreachable suggestion. There is only one direction: forward. This realization makes me mournful and nostalgic and energized and driven and empowered, all at the same time. Time to get up. get on with it, make something happen. There are no ties that bind, so anything, anywhere, is possible.
I'm not sure what the remedy to this feeling of unfamiliarity can be, other than to live exactly this moment, now, here, and nowhere else. To not dwell too long on times past, or on the time that is running (or running out), and simply live this chosen second, this mindful minute, in peace, with purpose, and most importantly, with gratitude.