I have now lived most of my life in places other than where I grew up. As the years go by, I feel less and less of a connection to my hometown. Downtown only has a few of the same businesses as from when I was a regular patron. Even the movie theater has a different owner, and seven more screens. There is a new mall outside of town and the old mall is gone. My high school is now the middle school and my grade school is now used for something else. Even my parents have relocated to a different neighborhood. Still, its not really all these things that make it feel so strange in my erstwhile hometown. The strangeness comes from how different I feel from the people that are still there.
I have no idea if this is normal. From a very young age I was aware of the fact that I wasn’t like most other people in my town, especially my family. I was also aware, early on, that I didn’t want to be like these people. Of course I wanted to be accepted by my family and the people I interacted with, but I wanted them to accept me on my terms. I believed that there was something better that could be found somewhere else. I couldn’t express what it was but I was certain that it existed.
My biggest fear growing up is that I would never leave my hometown. I was worried that I’d end up in a job that I hated, married to a woman that I had to settle for, raising children that I felt obligated to have. Now I didn’t escape the job issue but I did get out of my hometown and did marry the woman of my dreams and we did not have any children. The life I live now may have been unusual if I’d stayed but in New York you can be anything.
So I became someone that my parents didn’t understand. I became the type of person that my parents never liked. If I wasn’t their son I’m sure they wouldn’t like me. Even as their son, some days its a close thing between like and dislike. My going back home is a reminder of why I was so anxious to get away. My family is a reminder of what I never wanted to be. I’m sure my parents know how I feel and there is an uneasy detente between us, neither side wanting to say or do the wrong thing.
I go home less and less as the years pass and I’m not sure if things will ever change. Maybe I need to accept that I will never be the child that my parents want. Maybe I need to not have a chip on my shoulder about it. I decided long ago that I would no longer make decisions based on what they wanted or thought was best. But if you can’t be yourself when you go home then why bother?