Growing up is a strange phenomenon. Your world starts out as small as you are. As a child, you can’t really comprehend the immensity of it all. In expanding your horizons to adulthood, you still can’t fathom it, but you have a better grasp on your own minuteness. The world is not restricted to your childhood home. Exploration and trailblazing are no longer limited to your backyard or treehouse. The world expanded. Growing up means that adventures require a great deal more sensory input. You must leave your city and travel to another. Once you’ve done that, the scale grows. You must now leave your state and go to another, maybe you will need to even travel to another country. Because of this growth, your perspective changes and, as you experience new things, so do your needs. Where once a small town could meet every need and your parents where the catalyst of providing for that need, now you must venture elsewhere. In doing so, something fascinating happens.
As you venture forward, the places you have left become petrified in your memory. This is to say, you remember them as you left them. When and if you return, it will have inevitably changed and will no longer be frozen mosaics of past experiences and emotions. Because of this, it will feel different. Associating with it will become much harder. This is why when you leave your childhood home and launch into adulthood, returning to that house or town will feel foreign. You expect such feelings from places you have never been, or even places you never called home, but this particular sensation is magnified by the memories. This is compounded by the fact that the memories are not completely static. Each time you recall the memory, you add another layer of present experience and emotion. Imagine taking a picture of your childhood home, but each time you access it, you increase the color saturation of the photo. Other times, you clean up the imperfections with photo editing. After years of doing this, the photo takes on almost mythical properties. Then, when you return to that place in reality, something bizarre happens. Everything is faded. The colors aren’t as vibrant as the photo you have. The outside of the house is covered in dirt and pollen. Some shingles are missing and the screens on the windows are torn. The grass isn’t cut perfectly enough and there are cracks in the cement. This isn’t home, this is an imposter.
Going home is the hardest. The house alone hasn’t changed, but the people too. They look older, they look worn, and they look tired. You’ve missed it. They’ve walked through parts of life you can’t get back. They’ve created memories without you. They didn’t freeze in time and you realize how little time you have left. It’s not your home, but a fabrication and a left over. No matter how you try, you cannot recreate that home. You’ve seen too much and the innocence is gone. You pay bills and work hard and you can’t stay here. You’ve aged too. They see their son as a man. Just like you see the wrinkles, they see the bags under your eyes. They see the crease that formed between your eyes because of your often furrowed brow. As long as you’re buried in your life, you don’t have to think of these things, but going home ruins it. It takes the perfect memories and reveals their flaws. Your parents aren’t the giants you remember. Your mother was once the stern force which drove you to excel. She was the one that filled you with knowledge and navigated every new experience by proper planning and preparation. She was indestructible. Now your mother is frail. Her hands shake when she lifts her glass. She forgets obvious things and no longer predicts her own needs. Where did the woman that raised you go? Your father was brilliant. He could solve any problem and had the wisdom to answer life’s biggest questions. There was no obstacle he could not out maneuver. His ability to adapt was inhuman. Now he stares blankly into space when you ask for advice and he gets lost trying to answer. He’s overwhelmed by complex questions. Any unforeseen changes leave him dazed. What happened to your father?
I don’t have great answers or recommendations to these observations. But know that you are not alone. Your home cannot stay your home. Your world changes too much as you age. Your world expands from a world made of just one town or neighborhood to a world with countless destinations and people that walk within it. The new perspective, the world you’ve seen and the new things you’ve done, prevents you from feeling at home again. This new wanderlust burns like a flame, growing in intensity the longer you remain. The resources within the borders of your home town are insufficient to satisfy you. Because of this, when you return, it’s only a matter of time before you feel the insatiable call to venture out again. Home will never really be home again. It can’t be and that’s okay.
Life takes your memories and shatters them. It takes the safety of youth and gives you loss and burdens. But it also gives you new adventures and replaces the old world with a fresh and wondrous one to explore. So yes, growing up is a strange phenomenon. It’s one you’ll never quite get the hang of.