“You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right.” ~Maya Angelou
They say that in times of stress and uncertainty, we tend to gravitate towards what’s comfortably familiar. By “they” I mean of course, my mom, Dr. Phil and Elizabeth Gilbert (whom I seem to be referencing a lot lately…Sorry). In fact, Ms. Gilbert had this to say about the subject (from page 119 of the hard-cover edition of her book Committed):
“I once read an interview with a New York city divorce court judge, who said that in the sorrowful days after 9/11, a surprisingly large number of divorcing couples withdrew their cases from her review. All these couples claimed to have been so moved by the scope of the tragedy that they decided to revive their marriages, which makes sense. Calamity on that scale would put your petty arguments about emptying the dishwasher into perspective, filling you with a natural and compassionate longing to bury old grievances and perhaps even generate new life. It was a noble urge, truly. But as the divorce judge noted, six months later, every single one of those couples was back in court, filing for divorce all over again.”
I thought of this passage last week, when I realized that ‘Operation: Move to Hawaii and Find a Job’ wasn’t going to be successful. Despite knowing that the odds were against me (a little over a week is not enough time to find a job, even in the best of times) I was still disappointed. Every day for 10 days, I’d marched up and down the beach in a suit, hopeful that one of the the Waikiki beach resorts would take a look at me and my resume and hire us on the spot. But I had no such luck.
And so after coming to the conclusion that I’d have to return to the mainland with nothing to show for the wasted hours of job-hunting, but a sunburn and a blistered toe, I sat on the balcony of my parents’ condo and cried.
15 seconds later, I picked up the phone and called my mom. Here’s what she had to say:
“All those reasons why you never moved back to Hawaii before…Reannon, they’re all still true. Six months from now, when all of the excitement about being back wears off, you’re going wake up bored and living in some crappy apartment you can’t afford. And you’ll be hot. And then you’ll want to move back to California. So why not do it now and save yourself the trouble?”
She had a point. Perhaps my reasons for wanting to move back to Hawaii had nothing to do with Hawaii being a good place to settle down and everything to do with nostalgia.
I’m from Hawaii. I was born there and lived there until I moved to New York when I was 16. And from the moment I traded in an island in middle of the Pacific Ocean for an island in the middle of the biggest city in North America, I swore I’d never go back. I loved Hawaii but it was just too small, too isolated and too expensive to justify ever living there again.
So why did I decide to move back last week? I don’t know.
Maybe hometowns are like ill-matched ex-husbands. You leave ’em but the moment you’re feeling a little lost and confused in life, you forget how miserable you made each other and suddenly start entertaining the thought of “Well, maybe now that I’m older and more mature…” and “It wasn’t that bad, was it?”
Like someone who settles out of a fear of being alone, I was settling out of fear of being homeless. And a hometown, even one that I hadn’t called ‘home’ in 12 years, was better than no home, right?
Now I’m not so sure.