Someday I’ll be coming home.
I’ll go broke before giving up the thrill that’s flying from state to state, home to home. But flight after flight, new place after new place, comes a mystery. A mystery that’s no longer knowing where home is.
By definition, home is a place, but can it also be a mindset? Can a place still be considered home if you’re the only one left? If no one’s left? Feelings and memories are corroding — but pieces still remain.
I took my first job offer out of college, a job located in California. I was in Colorado at the time. I left behind friends, family, my entire life, and who I am. I had to start from scratch. But that’s what I do — I’ve always been “on the go.”
I went to the University of Colorado for two years. I decided it wasn’t for me, so I transferred to Colorado State University. Then I decided I needed another drastic change, so I studied abroad in Barcelona.
I love to travel.
I love being on a plane, where no one can get to you and your thoughts run free. I crave the liquid sensation that’s drinking a beer at the airport. The feeling of being in a place where no one knows your name. They don’t know the mistakes you have or haven’t made, or the tales of your lost and broken dreams. They only know what’s showing on your face, your clothes, your person.
This thirst to start over led to me making impulsive decisions, such as changing schools for a girl, and moving from Colorado to California for a job (and a fresh start).
While traveling has led me to believe Hawaii has clearer water than the stuff I drink, the nightlife in Barcelona is second to none, California really is a place everyone needs to live at some point in life, Jamaica has the best chicken, it’s easy to get lost in the Caribbean’s big blues, and you haven’t seen the world until you … well, see the world, none of it matters if the thing you’re leaving behind, the thing that might never be the same again, is your family and friends — your life.
I’m not sure where home is now, but mountains have something to do with it.
My childhood home is on the verge of hitting the market, college friends scattered back to their hometowns, my dad’s back in Indiana, and my mom’s remarried and living in a different part of town.
Everything’s changing. But the mountains are still there — the one reliable constant.
The mountains are large, rocky, and flooding with shades of brown, green, red, and yellow, just like all mountains. The wildlife is visible and WiFi (or any form of connection) is a distant past. I’m 1,000 miles away from home. But I feel so at home. That’s because of one thing: the mountains.
The mountains, if nothing else, remind me of home. A better place. A now foreign place. Before, I could escape into a red, dusty canyon, turn off my phone, and encounter the simplicities of life (like breathing air, or how loud nature is when everything is quiet). Before, I would only travel 30 minutes to escape reality and appear in my happy place. Now, try a 6-plus hour drive.
I can see the ocean that seems to be a thousand shades of blue, with white sprinkled in when the waves break. The mountains aren’t as massive, the lakes and reservoirs replaced by endless and unknown water, and hiking trails are harder to find. There are mountains. Not Colorado mountains, but mountains nonetheless.
I’m somewhere in California, at a place the locals, or anyone, really, calls Big Sur. The bat-shaped figure on Pikes Peak in Colorado replaced by a bridge of wonders, connecting one path to another, in California.
How can I feel so close to home but be so far in reality?
I’m terrible with directions and California seems indescribable: An ocean on one side and mountains on the other, a concept that didn’t seem possible until I discovered Hawaii for the first time. There’s also a road that leads to God knows where.
Where does it lead? Home? To the next state? The next country?
Here’s what I do know: I recently left my office job in Irvine and replaced the void with an MFA in creative writing degree. I traded certainty, and a supposed guaranteed paycheck, for a full glass of I wonder where this leads to.
As I decide to set up camp before lightless skies and bright dots take over, I notice the one occurrence that really reminds me of Colorado: An orange horizon. Orange is my favorite color and also a familiar color when the sun goes down in the west over the Rocky Mountains.
The stars are still dim (where’s Betelgeuse?), the mountains don’t have the same feel, the ocean is visible (I can at least hear it), and I’m 1,345 miles away from home.
One of the three options is occurring: (1) The time has somehow gone back a few years. (2) I’m dreaming. (3) I’m home for my brother’s graduation.
I‘m not dreaming and I can’t go back in time. I’m here, now, in the present. I’m home for my brother’s graduation.
My older brother, who I look up to more than anyone, is concluding his undergrad studies.
For me, this is it — the beginning to the end. For him, this is the start.
He’s the last person who remains in the city I came alive in. The city I reinvented power hours, “The Game of Life,” and who I am.
Everyone has, inevitably, moved away. The city is Fort Collins, a place where I spent three years getting to know the most influential people I’ve ever met.
My roommates taught me how it’s OK to be yourself, so I began to dance, laugh, and sing as I’d always wanted to.
Fort Collins itself is just a town, another place, but it also gave me the freshest of starts that featured me being the most me I’ve ever been.
Life happens, people move away and change (myself included) and home no longer feels like home. The places might look identical to what they once were. The memories start to fade. The feelings seem like a distant past, a thing that happened a lifetime ago.
Family, friends, and people I haven’t seen in years will be in Fort Collins for my brother’s graduation. For a day, possibly a weekend, I will move the clock back, making Option 1 a real possibility…
Like all things in life and similar to so many others, I took it for granted. All the people I love — my mom, dad, brother, childhood and college friends — were in the same place for the first time in years, and likely the last time, and I shrugged it off. Colorado from that day on will never be the same. Because these people will never be in the same place, at the same time, ever again.
How do I know? Because my brother’s graduation was years ago.
The mountains are large, rocky, and flooding with shades of brown, green, red, and yellow. The wildlife is … well, we’ve already been here before.
I’m with new friends, new experiences, a new life — I’m in the mountains in California.
I’m reminded of all the times my Colorado friends and I went on those weekend hikes and fishing trips, turning off our phones and getting away from the world, even if it’s for a few short, yet pleasant, days.
I’m reminded that I don’t know where the roads lead to.
But I chose this road and I chose to travel and I chose to change states. Everyone else followed suit — their lives happened and changed as well. They disappeared by going on their own adventures, by making new friends, by letting life run its inevitable course that’s changing things, all things.
The funny thing about life is you never know when you’re going to be with the same group of people, in the same place, again. Whether it’s death, taxes, people moving away, relationships crumbling at a prehistoric rate, or [fill in the blank], life will happen. But this is where traveling led me — to a time and place I thought I would love. The glory of chasing dreams, taking the “perfect” job out of college, and the need for something new led me down this path. It has been a sad, happy, challenging, and, most importantly, different one.
But here I am, constantly telling myself … someday I’ll be coming home.
Wherever that might be.