I finally understand the expression “You can never go home again.”
Last month, I booked a ticket to fly home to Delaware to audition for a reality show for Oprah Winfrey Networks. I decided that since I was coming all that way, I should stay at home for a week and make a visit of it. This week that I have spent at home has been a resounding wake-up call that I no longer live here. My parents live here, but this is no longer my home. My dad has turned my bedroom into a combination storage room and man cave. The refrigerator is full of food that I avoid eating (My family thinks I eat crazy, hippy food and I think they eat crazy, terrible-for-you food). I have only two friends I regularly talk to that I want to go through the trouble of visiting, and my family goes about their everyday lives of work and school, leaving me at home all day with cable television, the elderly, vomiting cat and the mischievous, hyperactive dog. I’m no joy to have around either. I rage through the house, complaining about the clutter, lack of sunlight, and whatever else I can find that doesn’t fit my image of domestic perfection. My visits home have become only bearable for my entire family. Yes, the family time is great, but I think it would be even better if we met on neutral territory like a beach resort in Florida.
The phrase “You can never go home again” refers to these literal instances, but more importantly, cautions us about the difficulty of returning to a former state once we have outgrown or moved past a situation or condition. Like a baby who can no longer return to the womb once she has been birthed and joined the world, like a veteran who finds her new civilian life foreign and constraining, or like a person who has finally admitted to herself a shocking truth she always denied, once you’ve moved past a way of seeing or moving through the world, it’s impossible to go back.
I am ecstatic and grateful that my audition for Oprah Winfrey Networks went well and that they called me back for a second audition (which also went well!), but I started to realize that this whole talk show dream just might happen. And if I did have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of being on this reality television show, and join the world of Hollywood, there’s no going back. I can always withdraw from the spotlight, but there will always be thousands of people who know my face and name and the things I said and did for the world to see. They’ll know my hopes and dreams, and they’ll have free license to scrutinize and criticize my weight, my hair, my actions, my choice in lover, or lack thereof. I can never go home again, home being my life as a person who can go to the grocery store and only be approached by people who know me from high school—not who recognize me from Channel such-and-such.
Despite the ominous and sober nature of this realization, I am encouraged by the fact that we all have choices in our lives. Every single day, we choose to go to work or stay at home in bed all day crying and eating donuts. We choose to take a jog or to watch another episode of Real Housewives. We choose to march forward climbing the corporate ladder or to listen to that voice that says we want to be a Kindergarten teacher. Whatever choices I make throughout my life, I am making them every single day—not just once in a split instant. Just like you build muscle, knowledge, or a skill over time, we build our lives one day at a time by the choices we make and the moments we live. That means that I can do my best to take my life one step at a time, and that’s the best any of us can do or hope for.
You can never go home again, and that’s scary. But it also means that you have the freedom to forge ahead and create a new home for yourself—a life that fits you in the present and can grow with you as you develop. And that’s a beautiful thing.