As I write this I could be seven months from returning home. I have lived in Philadelphia for over ten years. By the time I leave, it will have been closer to eleven. While I am glad to be returning home as I have been away for too long, I can’t help but have some reservations.
While I will be returning to the land where I grew up and it will always be my home, I know it will never be the same. I know that it has changed, but more importantly I have changed. I am not the same person on so many levels that left home over a decade ago. For the past ten years I have had the luxury of viewing home as it was. It remained a fond memory. But now that is all that it is. Things have changed. It is not the same as it was. Going home means the illusion is shattered. Not only has my home changed, but everything that haunts me will likely follow no matter where I find myself. I am afraid that I will bring my life with me and destroy the one place where I could find a small measure of peace. It will not be the first time I have been home in all these years. I have visited, but not much more than a few days here and there with much time in between. In those short periods I have been able to separate the parts of my life. For a few days I could block everything out. I could pretend I was who I used to be. But I am afraid that is not sustainable for a long stretch. And I can’t simply forget everything that has happened in my life and where I’ve been. I can’t ignore that. It has to follow me home. Like it or not, good or bad, for better or worse, it is all apart of me now. I can’t be who I used to be. That person does not exist anymore. And even if I tried to be him I wouldn’t really know how. He is a memory obscured by the mist of time.
On going home I find the words of Frodo Baggins echo in my mind.
“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand, there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend, some hurts that go too deep, that have taken hold.”
Frodo returned home to The Shire after his adventure with The One Ring through Middle Earth. The Shire was his home. He was happy there. He lived his life in an ignorant bliss unaware of the larger world and the evils that lived within. On returning to The Shire he understood that it would never be the same. He knew that it couldn’t be the same. On leaving The Shire he told his friend Samwise Gamgee that they had saved The Shire, but it wasn’t saved for Frodo. For Frodo The Shire was destroyed shortly after he began his journey with the ring. The more he continued to walk through the larger world The Shire became more of a memory. The blissful bubble of ignorance that Frodo had spent his life living in was gone. The illusion was forever shattered.
On his journey through Middle Earth Frodo visited new places, met all sorts of people and creatures, and experienced new things. Most importantly though was that he discovered things about himself that he never before knew. He learned things both wonderful and terrible. He found courage and strength he never knew he had, but he also discovered the dark side of himself. The ring burdened his soul and forced him to realize the darkness that lived within. Not only was the illusion of The Shire shattered, but the illusion of Frodo himself was destroyed. He was forced to deal with things that he never would have if he had never left his home. That was probably the most difficult thing for Frodo. This was the main reason he could not really return home. He couldn’t return because he wasn’t the same hobbit that left The Shire. The scars from his journey would never fully heal. No matter how much he would try to forget, they would always be there. They would always remind him of the world outside of The Shire. They would be a reminder of the things he did. They would always be there to remind him of what he had become.
While I never trekked across a fantastic land on a mission to destroy a magic ring, I can’t help but see Frodo’s adventure as a metaphor for a lot that has happened over the course of the past ten years. I am not going to go into the details here for to fully explain it all would take up far too many words. Perhaps I will one day write about it, but not right now. Like Frodo, I ended up destroying some thing of value. And like the ring, I didn’t realize how crazy it made me and the destruction it caused. I wish it didn’t happen, but maybe it had to. Perhaps it was a good thing, but I do not want to believe this. I regret destroying it. Even if the all the joy it had provided me over the years was just another illusion, deep down I would give anything to have that illusion back.
And then of course there was everything else that happened.
So many things. Good and bad. Although if good and bad is simply just a human construct, then they are simply just things that happened, neither good or bad.
“So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for anything one has a mind to do”
– Benjamin Franklin.
Regardless of the nature of my experiences, they are things that would have not happened had I remained home. They were matters of the larger world and things that the man I had become were led to. Had I not been him they would not have been experienced. While I may regret destroying “the ring”, I can’t really say I regret any of these other adventures. Although I know that for the hobbits that remained in The Shire, these things would be difficult to understand and as much as I could try to explain it all, they would never know. They would never understand. The best I could hope for is that they would not judge me.
That’s the problem with being misunderstood, the people of this world for the most part are far to eager to judge others. And often this judgement is based on things they do not comprehend. Incomplete sets of facts, bias, fear, and lack of understanding all come together so that one person may look down on another. Or at the very least, people far too often rush to conclusions without evaluating everything. So, even if the hobbits at home knew the entire story, it is far too likely that they simply wouldn’t understand or would rush to conclusions.
But I’m not concerned about all of this. For the most part, if there is anywhere where I am accepted it is back home. Although, I’ve been wrong about things of this nature before. Perhaps that’s what I’m afraid of. I once believed in someone and believed that we accepted each other no matter what. But I was wrong. And I faced the possibility that was also another illusion. That all along I was always being judged.
I could say that I don’t care about being accepted. I don’t care what other people think. And that would all be a lie. While, yes, it is true that I don’t really care what most people think, I do care about what a small set of people think. And while I don’t think they would ever judge me harshly, I know that I was once proven very wrong.
But, I’m not really worried about all of that. What concerns me is returning home after everything that has happened. I know that I will be returning to a place that I have had the luxury of viewing in a special idealistic innocence. Returning means that I will destroy that. I will be forced to accept it as just a memory.
I can never really return home.