Saturday, September 23, 2017

You Can't Go Home Again

I'm writing this post on my childhood bed, in my childhood bedroom, in my childhood home, for the last time.

My parents recently sold this house, which we've lived in since I was born. This trip was the big "clean out your room" day (through extraordinary effort, I'm proud to say not a single baseball card will be left behind -- fulfilling a promise my parents made to me when I was eight that they'd never throw out my collection).

As you maybe can tell, I'm a sentimental guy. I gave an emotional send-off to this blog's pageview counter, for crying out loud. So you can imagine that this has been a very difficult trip for me.

I loved this house. I loved everything about it. I loved that it had the consensus best front and backyard, perfect for capture the flag. I loved that it had tons of trees and woods for exploring. I loved that it had a huge basement that was ideal for running around in as a kid -- big enough for floor hockey games. I loved that it was packed with nooks and crannies that made it perfect for hide-and-go-seek, and that I knew the perfect hiding spot where nobody would ever find me. I loved my room, with its wall-to-wall desk back behind the bed so I could have all my books in arms reach. I loved a closet that was big enough to house my entire baseball card collection, and enough shelves for seemingly-infinite books plus a few choice pieces of sports memorabilia.

Of course, I didn't really have to deal with any of the stresses of home ownership. I just got to grow up here. And even after I left for college and basically moved out, it was always "home". It was always a place I could put down as a "permanent address" (not a small thing, when you moved five times in five years all across the country). It was always a place where I had my childhood toys, just in case I wanted to bask in a bit of nostalgia. Most importantly, it was always there, a promise that if things didn't work out (and I'm not even sure what I mean by that), I could go back. All the things I was doing in the world, the traveling and working and going to school -- they were not points of no return.

I've always said that I hate change, but I've realized that's not quite accurate. What I hate is not being able to go back. I hate irrevocable change. My ideal life comes with save and reload points. The funny thing is, I virtually never use them (in games, I have a propensity to save before big decisions "just in case" -- then never return to the decision-point again). But just having the option is comforting. And the house was the ultimate reset button. It has always been a part of my life; I've never been without it. And so it doesn't matter that I virtually never spent time there anymore. It's very, very scary to let that go.

Tomorrow, the house is hosting an engagement party for Jill and myself, where some of our oldest friends will get to celebrate a big step forward in my life that I am genuinely excited for. My mom asked if I wanted to do that -- it makes for a bit of an emotional rollercoaster -- but I emphatically did. It will make for a fantastic send-off, and I'm glad I'll get to experience it filled with family and friends once more.

And then, after that, we go to the airport, back to Berkeley, and it's gone forever. I'd love to end this post with some moment of personal growth, or at least catharsis. And I am happy that a new family, with a little kiddo of their own, will live here and form their own memories. But the truth is, right now, I'm just sad. I'm sad to be leaving. I'm sad that when we pull out of our driveway (a driveway which only true experts could back out of without straying onto the grass), I'll never be coming back. It is a permanent, irrevocable goodbye, to something I truly loved.

The grand dame herself:

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