It’s a peculiar feeling when you leave your home, set out to explore the great global expanse of unknown before you. It’s even more peculiar to return to your home after being gone a while, only to return to a semblance of home which has been morphed and twisted into a fog-mirrored, shadow-reflection of its former self. When I left Seattle, my hometown, it was a wild, bustling expanse of cloud high skyscrapers stuffed with bumbling masses of Seattleites racing from coffee shops to board meetings to coffee shops again. I packed that image of home with me and it nearly broke me to see that the reality of the home I returned to had changed drastically. Put frankly, home doesn’t feel like home.
It was a slow realization at first. The airport felt the same. This repulsed me due to the current state of global affairs. Though, I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t a subtle comfort in seeing and feeling like all was right as it was, left untouched and preserved as it had always been. The streets were empty. Odd. I remember thinking. The city was cloaked in a sheet of black speckled with stars. Small rays of starlight seeped through the cover and, at 65mph, vague flashes of familiarity passed by. It was like home, but it didn’t feel the same.
There were no people. Prior to my leaving, there were always people wandering about throughout all the hours of the day and night. I had returned to a ghost town which wore the flesh of vague familiarity. Lights flickered – fewer than ever had before. The buildings stood where they always had. The skyline was untouched. I knew these streets. My car slid down that hill three years ago after it had snowed and the roads were icy. Phantom memories were still seared into the concrete veins of the city as before but they seemed less vibrant- hazier than I remembered.
My sister and I arrived at our quarantine shelter. It was a cute, simple cottage in a neighborhood I knew well. I used to jog down these streets. I kissed a lover on that park bench. I had a crush on a cute barista boy who used to work at the coffee shop just around the corner. Memories swarmed and tears marched on. Emotions swelled up within me, like helium to an inflated balloon stuffed and milliseconds from popping. It felt good. I believed that I just needed to find my groove again. I just needed to remind myself that this was and still is my home.
A Few Days In
Life isn’t the same here. Will it ever be again?
I saw people today. Families walking and talking. People were laughing. They were out and about, living their lives. But it still wasn’t the same. Some strangers passing by were wearing face masks now. The stores had signs posted saying that they were closed indefinitely. My old favorite coffee shop is closed. The lights are off. The tables and chairs are stacked and the building is just sitting there. Empty. Everything just felt so empty.
I walked by the park. I needed to hear something that would help me feel normal again. Gentle waves from the lake splashed against the shore. They painted the rocks in sand and then washed it all away. The birds sang their familiar songs and the leaves of the trees still rustled as they danced amongst the lullabies carried in the wind. There was some more laughter. I heard it again. It was muffled by homemade masks and scarves which were wrapped around the heads of strangers passing by, but it was there. It was audible and joyously familiar.
I watched as a child practiced riding his bike. I couldn’t see his father’s smile but I saw the twinkle of joy and pride in his eyes as he cheered on his son. There was a lot of empty space. I wasn’t used to that. I remember my home used to feel busier, tighter. But as I stood there watching and listening, I just remember thinking about how thickly woven distance was between everyone. It was nice. I like having space around me. I feel safe. This was a good change. Even though I still felt off, I felt a faint twinge of normalcy surging within me. I could get used to this. In this space I feel secure, connected.
It’s Beginning To Feel Like Home
I finally found a routine. It took a few days, but I did. Normal won’t be normal again, I’ve accepted that. Instead I’ll find something new and I’ll call that my “new normal” until it’s no longer new and it just becomes normal. I tried to connect with old friends which felt odd at first – staring at familiar faces freckled with digital static. It felt like I was getting to know these pillar people of my life all over again. Everyone looked a little different. When I spoke with them we found different things to say, topics we hadn’t explored before. I could feel some of them trying to make things feel like they had before, but eventually we both realized that nothing’s the same and to reconnect we needed to adapt. Changes remained all around me. From time to time I still felt frightened but I could feel my courage reemerging.
I was finding my footing but I hadn’t yet found my way. Lost to myself, I had become an outer-casing, my own chrysalis without even knowing it. Today I feel okay. I woke-up smiling for the first time in what seems like ages. I strolled to the bathroom, looked in the mirror and I saw myself. I really saw myself. While my eyes were peering into themselves I saw a flicker. A faint passing of a light that I hadn’t seen in quite some time. I was still adjusting but, as I stood there gazing at my reflection, I appeared more as myself. It was a discomforting comfort which I was grateful for. It gave me hope that there was still a spark left in me.
My home is not the same. I am not the same.
My expectations of what life would be like when I returned home were decimated in the wake of this hellish nightmare. Even so, I felt that feeling again. I felt happy. Happy had always been my default. My guiding compass pointing north. I felt powerful whenever I was happy and I used to always feel happy. I sank into a dark place when all of this started. I struggled with feelings of paranoia, confusion, and anxiety.
Bursting at the seams, I was chock-full of worry. I had grown tired of floundering about in the sea of abnormality that had engulfed me. I decided to stop treading water and allowed myself to sink down to the bottom of the sea. I closed my eyes and when I awoke, everything felt normal because nothing was. Normal is an uncontrollable illusion drawn upon to provide comfort from external uncertainties. Every day since I returned home I was at odds between reality and normality.
I realize now that what I needed, what I sought after so longingly wasn’t necessarily to feel normal, but to feel at peace. At peace with myself and with the reality of each day as it comes. The things that made me feel like myself again were all the things that calmed my nerves and eased my racing heart. Normal has shown to be fluid, molded by external occurrences beyond what we as individuals can control. Peace is molded by our internal workings. It is often hard to manifest, but once we do everything just seems to fall into place. We get lost chasing after this ideal of something we can’t control instead of searching inward to harness the power of that which we can control. I found I felt the most like myself when I realized I am all I can control, and then I gave myself the grace to embrace each day as it comes. No strings attached. Free of all expectations, yet filled with hope for a brighter day. Always filled with hope. Something good and grand is on its way.