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It’s been almost two weeks since I returned from my quick visit back to my hometown. It was great to bring my kids to the quiet little town that I grew up in and to watch them interact with and get spoiled by my family. I left my hometown going on 12 years ago and ever since I have left, I have longed to return home to that beautiful place. However, I had the realization during this trip that the dream of moving back home disappeared like an old memory from my childhood and replaced with the reality that regardless of my the family and friends, and my love for the outdoors- that place is not for me anymore.
The thing about Alaska is that it is arguably the most breathtakingly beautiful place in America. The fresh air, the mountains standing so tall and proud that you can’t help but stand in awe of their magnificence. What you don’t see, is that those breathtaking mountains cast a dark shadow on the Mat- Su Valley that sits behind them. Unfortunately, I was exposed to what lurks in those shadows at an early age. To say that I had a traumatic childhood is putting it lightly. I witnessed first hand the horrors that drug abuse and criminal activity can inflict on not only a family, but an entire town.
Don’t get me wrong- I love the outdoors. I love riding dirt bikes, four wheelers, snow-machining, fishing, snowboarding- you name it. Alaska is truly the outdoorsman’s paradise. But looking past the fun outdoor activities, my memories of that place are filled with pain, trauma, and an emptiness so deep it could swallow me whole if I allow it. Growing up I can vividly remember envying the seemingly ‘normal’ kids. The kid’s who didn’t have to seek safety in other people because they had a normal home. The kids whose parents provided a safe place for kids to grow emotionally, mentally, and physically. The kids who got to enjoy being a kid instead of being an adult and being exposed to situations that no child should ever witness.
Part of growing up in the manner in which I did, was that up until recently, I thought moving back and creating new, happy memories in a place that caused me so much pain would fill that void for me and in a way, make peace with the past. The truth is, it is impossible to go back to the past; or even to relive it. I recognize now what it was inside me that was aching to return home, and it was to fill that void of childhood trauma. I could never go back to that town and heal all the wounds that I received there. Since moving out and starting my divorce process, this trip home was so entirely different for me. I realized that part of that desire to go home, was also because I was so miserable in the situation I was in that moving home seemed almost romantic in a sense.
With that being said, there has always been a huge part of me that has longed to return home. I used to always say that it was because of the outdoor lifestyle. As mentioned above, I truly love the outdoors and the freedom that comes with it. The truth is, that I have been so unhappy for the better part of a decade, that the thought of returning back to my hometown and creating happy and healthy ‘new’ memories would in turn, heal the deep wounds that I received there. There is something so deceiving about nostalgia. The way that it plays tricks on your mind, your memories, and your heart. An illusion so deceptive that it makes you feel as that for a brief moment, you can feel, smell, hear, and taste that moment of the past, but just long enough to have that moment ripped away from your grips and replaced with the empty realization that that moment will never happen again. I will never get to hear my dad’s voice again. I will never get to lounge on the couch in the home I grew up in and see the photos on the walls that have been there my entire life. I will never get to feel the excitement of packing our boat full of supplies to head out to the cabin for our week-long fishing trips. Instead, the one place I did call home has now been filled with a new family since his death. The business that he owned is now an empty building. The sadness that overcame me seeing those places that were once booming with life, love, and laughter are now empty and dark.
Now that I have arrived at the conclusion that I can never return ‘home’ again, I am ready to face my future here in San Diego head on. I am fully aware that I am alone here. My close friends and family are thousands of miles away. I work full time, share custody of my kids with my ex, and just do my best to not let the loneliness get to me too much. I do have an amazing boyfriend that is in a similar situation and the future is looking amazing with him. Hopefully one day we can create a life and future together. I miss having a house filled with laughter, laundry, and dishes in the sink. My apartment has to be one of the loneliest places when my kids are with their father.
To say that it is going to be easy as a single mom in San Diego, away from my mom and sisters, would be a lie. But I know returning to the place that caused me so much pain would only counteract all the work I have done on myself to heal from those traumas. The future looks great from here, albeit lonely. All I can do is be strong for my kids and create a home for my children to thrive in. So for those of you who don’t have a ‘home’ like me, stay strong and rooted in the fact that home is where you make it and not always the place where you grew up.