You can’t go home again

More than anything, I think this road trip is a showcase of how a cross-section of our friends in their late 20’s and early 30’s actually live their lives. It’s fascinating and it’s affirming. Wonderful, even.

This morning I awoke in Salt Lake City on a mattress on the floor of my sister’s house. Her place is amazing.  She has a massive backyard with gardens, a tree house, and fruit trees.  She has the entire upstairs of the house to herself, with walk-in closets, a huge log frame bed, and a jacuzzi.  Right now I am writing this blog while cuddled up with my pj’s on in front of the wood stove with tea and lebkuchen.  Life in Salt Lake is good (current inversion notwithstanding). Yet again, my severe case of “home-envy” (as Rick and I are calling it) has kicked in.

We spent yesterday and the day before in Jackson, Wyoming.  It had been more than ten years since I last visited Jackson, and things definitely were different.  But, I think Rick and I both ranked it high on our lists of places to live.  We visited a friend there and caught up over coffee.  Between hearing about her backcountry skiing, trail running, the amazing gluten-free cafe she likes, and her yoga studio, we were pretty smitten.

The downside to Jackson, and several other places we have explored, is the difficulty of getting home to our families.  Even Salt Lake City or Portland don’t allow us to travel home without a connecting flight, making a trip into a full day of travel.  So, with this in mind I have been examining my attachment to the idea that I can travel home easily.  I have struggled with guilt and a sense of irresponsibility living far from home and from my family.  I don’t particularly want to live in Wisconsin, or Chicago, or the Midwest – but I want to be there for my family.

Over the course of our trip the phrase “you can’t go home” has come up several times. The first was in “Travels with Charley” the Steinbeck book about a cross-country road trip that Rick and I listened to during the first half of our trip. In the book, he travels back to his boyhood home in California and realizes that what he associates as home has changed around him. Home exists only in his memory.  Revisiting the place only serves to deconstruct the idea.

The second was in reference to a seedy bar in Denver called the Rock Bar.  Many of our friends from our time in Denver are now spattered across the country; New York, Chicago, Portland, Salt Lake, Seattle.  So this trip has been revisiting “Denver” in the sense that it’s the last place we all shared together.  As we have traveled, we’ve spent lots of time reminiscing about our lives while in Denver – surely it was kind of a magical time for all of us.  We were young, in transition, unburdened by much responsibility, with good jobs, and altogether very free.  We skied and hiked and went out to the bars.  It was a FUN place to live.  But, we all recognize that the joy of Denver was mostly a product of the coalescence of many factors of our lives there in a specific place and time.  Were we to go back to Denver now, it would prove to be a different place.  This hit home in Portland as we reminisced about our hazy memories in a little place called the Rock Bar.  It closed down a couple years ago – thus concluding a chapter in many of our lives.

You can’t go home again.  I keep reminding myself of this. In both a light-hearted way and a serious way, life as I knew it can’t be recreated.  This is a new chapter and we have to choose what home will be going forward.

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