LIZ HARROD

Leaving Home in the First Place

In Writing on November 11, 2011 at 9:03 am

There are a few things over the past week that have started to come together in my mind while mulling over my decision to leave Paris and what happens next.

I must admit, for me, the decision to move back to Kentuckiana and what to do when I get there is a multi-faceted one, to be honest it is more complex than I thought; and something I plan to write about, mostly for my benefit, through the next few entries. Starting with:

Why did I leave in the first place?

I have a confession. Whenever I go through security to leave the Louisville International airport, every time, without fail, I cry. I am 25 years old and have not lived in Kentuckiana since I was 18, but still every time I leave, I cry a little.

It happens on this end too. Whenever I’ve been away for any length of time and I check in and get that boarding pass that says SDF, I tear up (usually awkward for the airline employee); and don’t even get me started about when customs stamps my passport and says “Welcome Home.”

All of that aside. I do love living abroad. I do love traveling. I do love everything that I’ve gotten to do, but why and where did I ever get the gall to do it in the first place?…. A question I know my parents have been asked, and probably asked themselves, a hundred times.

So I’ll start at square one – leaving home for the first time and going to college:

I’m not sure why, but at some point during my childhood, I learned that going to college meant going away. In my mind it meant far. It meant leaving home, and it wasn’t something that might happen. It was not a question of when. It was just a matter of where, and how far.

Then somewhere along the way, I began to associate my leaving and going far away as a sign of success; if I didn’t do it, I had obviously done something wrong. I must not have the guts. I must be weak. So early on, leaving became a goal. My spiel switched from “I want to go to UK and be a lawyer” (at the age of 9) to “I want to go to NYU and be an actress.” (somewhere around 13). Strangely enough, I’ve never judged any of the people who did otherwise, but from some reason this was the necessary standard I set for myself.

When I applied to university, I didn’t even humor the idea of in state or even in region (a choice that my bank account will quite literally pay for). I restricted my options to the west coast and the northeast, with the exception of a few safety schools. To be honest, at 18 I thought I had it sorted out – moving far from home would open the doors to every opportunity and any kind of life I could possibly want. Looking back, my decisions were almost 100% based in geography: far=better. Strange, but true. And take note of that slight of word in the second sentence of this paragraph – “I restricted my options. . . ”

I got lucky, though. I chose Boston University, and for all the things I can find wrong with it sometimes, BU put me where I needed to be. Because of BU, I pushed myself the way I wanted to be pushed, and I grew the way I wanted to grow. BU gave me opportunities to travel and live abroad, opportunities that led directly to where I am now, but still I think back to the decisions I made when I was 18, and why I made them.

It’s not the result of those decisions that I’m grappling with now. It’s how deep seeded the motivation for those decisions apparently is, and how it still apparently affects me even now.

I have a very distinct memory from near the end of high school that I think about occasionally, not because it involves my high school boyfriend, but, rather, it’s because of what my decision in that situation symbolized. . .fair warning, I’m not proud of it. . .but I was young and this epitomizes what I am trying to explain here.

Sometime in April, before prom and graduation, the two of us stopped talking for four days. We’d been dating for a year and a half, and it was particularly awkward since we were in two plays together at the time, which at FCHS meant lots of rehearsals and time together. One afternoon, I broke the silence and asked him to come over. I remember sitting on the couch in my living room with him across the room in one of our formal wingback chairs. I was hugging my knees and he just sat there, understandably, waiting for me to say something.

It took me a minute, but I had made my decision. So I said the words that most high school relationships hear at some point: “I have to break up with you.”

Now, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that we would have come to that eventually, but again it’s the motivation to pay attention to here, not the result. Even in matters of the heart, at the age of 18, I was making decisions based on fear of staying at home. I knew that staying with him would tie me to my hometown, and for some reason (that I’m trying to figure out), I learned or taught myself that that wasn’t acceptable.

I don’t know what it is about hometowns that causes people so much strife. I always hear my friends talking about them one way or another. Either they’re homesick and longing just to be there, or they would absolutely never be caught dead there again. Then there are the ones that “never got out,” and despite whatever amazing success they have found, it is always overshadowed by their belief that the outside world was the key to something better. There are the lucky ones who still live there and found the secrets to moving on into adulthood in the same place where the had their childhood, and there are the ones everyone knows because they still hang out at the same places they haunted during high school. Everyone I know, myself included, has a particular relationship with where their from.

Along with the early root of my decisions, the ones that taught me for some reason it wasn’t okay to go home, there is one other thing that sticks with me. When I was a freshman, my student director for a show I was in looked at me before fall break: “How are you going to survive?” he asked, talking about my first trip home since college started.

Well, I must admit, it was the first question that came to mind when I made the decision to move back now; but then I thought about it, and though I haven’t quite sorted out where I got the set of beliefs the causes that question to come to mind, I do know they’re wrong.

I’m proud of where I’m from. I always have been, and now I’m finall excited to go back there, because I know that despite my own misconceptions it’s a place that actually inspires me and provides the most comfortable environment to explore all those inspirations.

So my next question is: Can you really go home again?

But I think that one will just have to wait until I get there.

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