For many years when I came back to Oklahoma, I would torture myself by driving around to sentimental spots and letting waves of emotion wash over me. I would let the car idle in front of places I’ve lived. I would purposefully play songs that brought back a certain summer. I would lose myself in my thoughts and cry big, wet, tears. I would, over and over, wring out the soft places of my heart.
And after a few days of this exhaustive behavior, both self-inflicted and habitual, I would become smug with the life that I had built elsewhere. I would write in my journal that I felt I was suffocating in my home state, that I just don’t belong there anymore. I would board the plane back to California with relief.
Over time, slowly, these trips got less grievous and I looked forward to revisiting the tender memories, some scarred over. There were certain streets I would still avoid, certain songs that never made it from the mixed tape to my iPod. But on the whole, I matured enough to appreciate my roots on a deeper level.
Last week, nearly eleven years after I fled, was the first time that I can ever remember where there was none of this private melodrama. I spent short days in my hometown, surprised and thrilled by the new places to shop and eat that have sprouted up. I drove through my college town four different times, and when it crossed my mind to drive quickly by something that was meaningful to me, I decided I would rather get back to my babies.
I didn’t itch to pack every minute of the visit with old friends, although as it happened I did get some quality time with people I haven’t seen in way too long. I did make a point to visit my old church, now housed in a beautiful new building, and I didn’t for one moment wish myself back in time.
I think there’s residual post-birth fog, and I think that sad events of the past couple of years have made me more realistic, and I think that I am more content than I have ever been. But more than any of these things, I think Time Marches On.
I think people my age are running for office and running households. I think people I know are platinum level donors and authors and land owners. I am, strangely, no longer a child. But the place where I was a child is thriving.
And so am I.