“It seems to me that in the orbit of our world you are the North Pole, I the South—so much in balance, in agreement—and yet, the whole world lies between.”
For the frequent readers out there, you’ve probably noticed a general trend with my Lettitors. So far this year, almost all of them have centered on a birthday, something personal, or even a mash up of the two. It’s not that I view the Other Press as a blog or medium for me to complain, but I find the most effective pieces of writing are those that contain a personal edge to it. On that note, the recent onslaught of the Thanksgiving weekend has affirmed something very conflicting in me.
As an export from Alberta, I’ve spent the last three and a half years trying to sculpt my life in Vancouver from almost nothing. New schools, employment, friends, and relationships are just a few of the things I struggled with at first, but now I can safely say I’ve never been happier. In that respect, it might explain why I’m dreading going home in December for Christmas.
In the last year and a half, I’ve spent exactly three days in Alberta. It was a last-minute arrangement for my dad’s birthday weekend and combined with schoolwork, editing, and one party to see my friends, it was one of the busiest and more stressful weekends I’ve had to endure.
So why the marginal number of days spent visiting the place I lived for 19 years? My family loves me, I still consider many people in my hometown close friends, and I actually enjoy the occasional overload of nostalgia that comes with visiting. But more than all of these things combined, I can’t stand being back. I’m sure that will come as offensive to some; it’s the truth. I regress into a child whenever I’m around my parents, asking to borrow the vehicle so I can go see friends or pouting when they ask me to help with chores. It’s a frustrating regression, one that I never mean to undergo and yet it’s seemingly unavoidable.
My Lettitor’s title comes from the Thomas Wolfe novel of the same name. You Can’t Go Home Again refers to the idea that once you leave the place where you grew up behind, there’s no way to return without the sense that you’re losing all the growth you’ve experienced since—partly because you’ve changed, partly because the place itself has changed too. It sounds ridiculous but I’m sure anyone who’s fled the nest can relate.
Even the idea of “going home” bothers me because aside from my Alberta student loans, everything about me resides in BC. My apartment and cat are here; so is my girlfriend; same with my two jobs and university. When I “go home,” I sleep on a couch and pretend that any moment my cat, who cleverly stole away in my suitcase, will hop onto my blankets, do her usual roundabout of my resting my body, and then plop down on top of my legs before falling asleep 17 seconds later. When I “go home,” I have to rely on other people for rides because the transit system in my town is more unreliable than a dollar store pregnancy test. I think you get my point.
Why did Thanksgiving bring this topic to mind? It was the thought that I wasn’t going to have a holiday dinner with my family. But as the weekend approached I was invited to join my girlfriend’s family for the holiday; I also hosted a dinner for a group of close friends one evening and was invited to another turkey dinner on the Saturday. Gluttonous? Yes. Delicious? Indeed. But the truth is that the food at every dinner could have been rock stew and sock borsch and I still would remember it fondly. It’s a reminder that I’m exactly where I need to be and there’s a crop of people out there who would agree with me.
I recognize my worries may seem unwarranted and over privileged (boohoo, I have to go home to my family at Christmas time!) but it’s just the way I feel. I can’t go home again because I’m already here.