Once in a while I get the urge to return home to the small town in Iowa where I grew up. It used to be easier to satisfy this urge when I lived I Minnesota. It took only a 4-hour drive down the highway to get there. Now that I live in Washington, a 25-hour drive (or a 3-hour plane ride), I’m only able to go back a few times a year, if I’m lucky.

I got the urge last month as my 29th birthday neared, and hastily booked a flight home. I missed the Midwest snow, missed my mom’s house with my old bedroom and all of my discarded belongings. I missed my cat Chitty, who was my pal through high school. I missed the simplicity of a small town, where it takes 5 minutes to go anywhere and there is always plenty of parking. I missed familiar sights like the A&W drive-in, Swan Lake, and my Grandma’s house with a backyard that overlooks a golf course.

Visiting home got me thinking about what exactly ‘home’ is. I’ve always referred to Iowa as my home, even though I haven’t lived there in over a decade. When I say home, I mean my childhood home. You can always visit home, but will it always feel like home? Will it be just the way you left it when you moved 11 years ago? The main reason I felt such an urge to return was because I wanted to spend time in my old room relaxing. I wanted to feel the way I did when I was younger, when I had no real responsibilities. I guess I wanted to escape reality and go back to simpler times, just for the weekend.

My childhood home hasn’t changed much all these years, except for strange new faces and the Taco Bell that moved in last year. What has changed after all this time is me, and because of that, home will never be the same as when I was growing up. Even though I was back in my old room, digging through my old belongings, I didn’t quite feel the same way I did when I actually lived there.

It’s interesting to look back at where you came from, why you left, and how you got to the place you now call ‘home’. I noticed a pattern when I thought about all the places I have lived. You move from one place to another when you stop growing. Some people can accomplish a lifetime of growing in just one or two places, but not for me. I left Carroll after 7 years when I moved on to better things in a big city. I said good-bye to Minneapolis after 9 years when I decided my life was stagnant and I had finished all the growing I could there. I’ve grown a lot since moving to Seattle almost two years ago, but who knows how long it will be my home.

Images taken at Swan Lake State Park.

I guess what all my rambling is getting at, is that you can never really go back home, not fully, because you change as a person. You move on, and you cannot go back to the way things were. Your childhood home no longer holds the same meanings for you, no longer feels the way it used to. You can visit home and try to runaway from reality (from your job, your bills, your stressors), but you won’t be able to completely return home. And I guess that is ok, because sometimes you are meant to move on. People change, the meaning of ‘home’ changes. But at least you have those memories, and you are the person you are today thanks to those memories.