“Come home.” My absolute favorite line from one of my favorite TV shows, Gilmore Girls. For those of you who are super fans, which I know you all are, you will easily recognize this as the statement said by Emily Gilmore to her husband, Richard, after a period of separation. It’s sweet and simple and loaded with romanticism and yearning.
It also reminds me that you can, indeed, come home again.
And that’s where I find myself today: the beginning of a new month and facing my one year anniversary since I moved home. That’s right. Mom’s house. Hometown. Street I grew up on. Something I thought I could never do – something I thought would mean I’ve hit rock bottom. And now, it’s almost been a year since I left my one bedroom apartment in Philly’s Italian Market, and I couldn’t be happier.
That’s not to say I didn’t put up a fight.
I fiercely protected my independence and truly loved living alone. The majority of the time. I was never scared living by myself in my studio apartment in London, but Philly has its ways of terrifying those who choose to live solo.
A small child was shot and killed three blocks from my house. I walked by his stuffed-animal-and-candle vigil every day. He wasn’t part of a family dispute or the subject of a kidnapping. He had been sitting on his front stoop, a handful of houses down from mine. He was not even five years old.
And, yes, these things can, I’m sure, happen anywhere. (As Jeb Bush recently said in response to another mass shooting: “Stuff happens.”) However, walking past that vigil with the glass votives and blue plush bears no less than 4 times a day, coupled with the amount of times I’ve been followed home, threatened by a crazy person, and called a bitch by a perfect stranger… Well, it would frighten anyone.
And still – I was doing it. I was living what I thought was “The Dream.” One girl, one dog, one big ol’ city. I was a success.
I got up every morning, ran along the river as the sun came up over the Art Museum, got my shower, and stared at my near-empty fridge. The toilet paper I used had been lovingly borrowed from work. (Sorry about that, guys.) It felt like sandpaper on my backside. Dishes had piled high in the sink because I hadn’t had time to go to the dollar store and buy Ajax. I was down to my last two eggs and one remaining slice of wheat bread. It was cold in my apartment, near freezing. I refused to put on the heat for any length of time. A quick turn of the knob to heat up my bedroom before Tandy and I crawled under the covers. That was usually the extent of it.
I was scared. All of the time. For my life, when Tandy decided she had to go out at one in the morning and I was called at from the passenger side of a slow-moving vehicle. For my well being, as my bank account hovered around my last $100. (And then my last couple of dollars.) For my future, as I despaired that every day was going to be exactly like the one before it.
I had no confidence in my job. None in my financial stability. Zero to speak of when it comes to my art and my creativity. Let’s face it, I no longer believed in me. I wasn’t making anything: no art, no stories, no progress. All my life I had been making music and poetry and anything else my heart desired. I had swam and gardened and danced and cooked meals and wrote stories and knit and anything else that gave me pleasure. Now, I could barely write a journal entry without becoming disgusted with myself and with how barren my life had become.
How was I to fulfill my destiny if I was always too tired, too scared, too angry, too depressed to even begin?
I had expressed this sentiment to my mom, my best friend throughout all of it. I told her I wished I could just come home and forget this life of fear.
Her response? Come home.
At first, the move felt like a failure, a step backward. Okay… it felt like a LOT of steps backward. My ego got in the way, my false belief that somehow I should be better than where I came from. Better than the scent of cow manure in the fields, better than the smell of haluski at a church BBQ, better than a town without a stop light. My ego screamed, “You’ve been to LA, New York, Rome, Paris, London! You deserve more than this square mile of country folk. Why won’t you listen to me?”
Because, Ego, you just happen to be a first-class asshole.
Since moving back, my fridge has been full, the heat has been turned on when it was needed, and central air beat the stubborn humidity of July and August. (And September.) My dog is well-fed and joyful at all of the bunnies and squirrels (and bees) there are to chase. The toilet paper has ridges – real, honest-to-God, amazing, gentle-on-your-bum, ridges!
And, what’s more than that, I come home to someone who accepts me and who has made a home out of love, not fear. I am creating again. I am writing every day. I am teaching students the world of the performing arts. I swam! I played the piano! I gardened and decorated and I cook home-cooked meals every evening.
This “huge step back” was exactly what I needed to catapult my life forward. My life is joyful now, not fearful. I am surrounded by nature and love and creativity. And the people – the people who recognize me from my braces and cargo jeans-wearing days? These people who I tried so hard to deny? Well, they are part of me, they made me who I am today. Yes, a woman who flew a plane (albeit very briefly) by the Swiss Alps and watched as the sky around the Eiffel Tower grew dark and the lights within the monument grow bright. But also a woman who says “crick” instead of creek. A woman who knows the taste of boilo. A woman who knows where to get the good pierogies and refuses to pay more than $3 for a Yuengling. A woman who runs through the woods towards the Appalachians and walks barefoot on fields of grass and wheat.
A woman who heard the call to “Come home” and answered it with an open heart.