Heading home for the holidays always brings on mixed emotions. It’s wonderful to see all of your family and friends, but it’s hard to grasp that life has gone on without you and you are seriously out of the loop. From familial changes like divorce, remarriages, new babies to friends who have gotten married, had babies and also moved away — placing yourself back into the fold can be quite the task.
While I only moved four hours away (by car) and I travel home more often than most, the reality is I’m not there full time and often cannot keep up with the changes. The lives of your loved ones have evolved and taken turns you didn’t expect, the places you once frequented are no longer there, and the things you love have disappeared. Now you have to catch up and pretend not to be shaken up. Surprisingly, the changes are always harder to grasp during the holidays — perhaps due to the longer visit or that everyone is gathering together to spend time with one another.
Thanksgiving I spend with one side of the family and I must catch up to all their lives, meet new significant others and share my story with life updates. Then for Christmas, I spend time with another side of the family and repeat the same reconnection from Thanksgiving. On top of personal life changes, you also have to factor in conversations on politics and sports to really spice up the holiday gatherings. This can truly be taxing, but I’ve learned to embrace it and have become quite the pro at giving my spiel.
More than anything, what I’ve learned from going home for five holidays since is leaving is that you never truly go home again. And that doesn’t have to be a bad or sad thing. Each year I learn to embrace change — in people, places, and things. I’ve learned that I’m not the same and that requires an adjustment from my loved ones just as I must do on the reverse. Home is truly in my heart, it’s the bonds I have with all of the people that keep me coming back each year despite the changes.