When a friend goes back home

Today, I watched a colleague who turned into a friend, pack up and return to her home country, after 7 years in Chile and after 10 years in other country in between. It was hard not to project her situation on myself; weeks leading up to this, I’d ask her randomly “how are you?” or “how are you feeling?!” While I truly did care about how she was feeling, I think a subconcious part of myself wondered, what does it feel like?! To go home, yes, and also to say goodbye.

Watching her organize today, close up a “life”, I was joking with her that I had way more anxiety about her move than she did. She just laughed and assured me she’s had her moments, but now she’s just ready, so she actually was overwhelmingly excited about all that was to come, more than mourning what she was leaving.

Contemplating that, it’s hard for me to imagine. But possibly it’s just because it’s not my time yet, which is why watching her leave made me so anxious. I couldn’t imagine packing things up just yet. People always ask me when I’m coming home, and I always respond that I’ll just know. For as rational as I am, I have a telling gut instinct.

I am excited to see how her transition is back to “home” – because a lot has surely changed in the 17 years she’s been away. Gulp. (I’m soon coming up on 5 years. Wowza.) Friends have faded away, friends stuck through, family has grown, there’s new spouses, babies, homes, you name it. No matter what, everyone, including us, is in a different stage of their life. Going back, it’s hard for us that left, because when we think of home, our image is what we know… it is the image of what everything was. It’s not that the new is bad, but it takes an adjustment period, even when going home for vacation, to realize that priorities are different, time availability is different, interests have changed, favorite restaurants are gone, etc. It just takes a conscious second to re-evaluate the land and re-set expectations according to everyone’s new reality.

Today, coincidentally enough, I stumbled upon some emails that I sent home when I first left home in 2007 for a study abroad, while I was in college. Reading the way I wrote, seeing how I perceived the world, was quite the laugh, and also shock. I’ve changed so much in these last 10 years of experiences away from home (study abroad, backpacking and now living …. with periods home in between). Considering I’m on this whole reflection kick, that sure triggered a flood of thoughts, but… more on that later.

All I know right now is that watching my friend today ignited a lot of emotions. Going home means a whole lot more than one really comprehends.  In an essence it’s starting over again. It just happens to be starting over again in a place that is highly familiar… but also substantially different.

“Chase your dreams but always know the road that will lead you home again” – Tim McGraw

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