Someone did a shitty job cutting the umbilical cord when I was born.
Mr Umbilical Cord Cutter, whoever you are (who even cuts umbilical cords?), you didn’t quite get it right.
Nope. You goofed.
You definitely left one too many strands intact. And now, thanks to you, I am still attached to my mama.
Also my pops. And my brothers. And gram and gramps. And that boy I hung out with all last summer. And my best friend who goes to school in Virginia. And Mary Gelezunas (side note: shouts to Mary Gelezunas 100x). Oh, and Gerry the Donut Man.
Ok, so maybe this is more than just a matter of a poorly-cut umbilical cord. You caught me.
I’m 19 years old and, as it goes with being 19 years old and somewhat grown up and sort of living on my own, I have a hard time admitting I still miss home sometimes. I still miss people.
But I’ll admit it: wherever I go and whatever I do, I still feel pangs in my heart for the people I love—those, like my parents and a few close friends, who I’m still in touch with on a regular basis, those I only come in contact with if our paths happen to cross at the golf course or the grocery store during college breaks, and those I’ve left behind who I’ll likely never speak to or even see again.
I miss them all—some more than others, but I miss them nonetheless.
For better or for worse, the thought of them evokes a sort of nostalgia for the sense of comfort and security that wrapped its arms around me back in good ole Ellington.
I grew up in a bubble—a bubble of familiar places (Brookside Park) and faces (Mario the Janitor) and sounds (Ms. G’s ridiculous cackle) and smells (cow manure) and tastes (Dzen’s Ice Cream)—and it was all so familiar. So comfortable. So safe.
And, though at the time I wanted nothing more than to escape my small town and take on the world (ain’t no tuition for havin’ no ambition), it wasn’t until I left home and started the transition to having to figure shit out and live on my own that I realized how many people I’ve left behind that I really love—and how many people I will always love, regardless of the years and miles between us.
I put too much pressure on myself during my first year of college to not miss home. I thought I could just give my parents a bear hug and wave goodbye to my friends and say “thank you” to my teachers without ever looking back in the rearview mirror at all I’d left behind.
I thought I could just let go.
But when I realized it wasn’t that easy—that leaving home really would be a major transition—I felt ashamed of myself. I never wanted to admit to my friends that I felt homesick. I’d go home for a weekend without even mentioning it to anyone, probably for fear I’d be judged or, worse, that someone would think I was depressed or something.
I’m not depressed. I wasn’t then, and I’m not now. But I do still miss home sometimes, despite living in a beautiful city with beautiful people. And I’d be willing to bet my last ice cream cone that you still miss home sometimes, too.
Your home might not be anything like mine. Where you come from, everyone might not know each other’s name. The majority of people might not be white. There might not be neighborhoods upon neighborhoods of kids playing backyard baseball and two-hand-touch football and capture the flag.
You might not have had a mother and father and two older brothers looking out for you along the way. Your grandparents might not have ever been a part of your life. You probably had more than three close friends. Maybe you didn’t have any. You definitely didn’t have a teacher like Mary Gelezunas. And you’ve never eaten anything as delicious as one of Gerry’s donuts.
But wherever you came from and whatever your “home” was comprised of, you probably loved someone. And you probably miss that person sometimes, no matter how much you love Boston or Storrs or Blacksburg or Burlington or New York City or Italy or wherever you’ve found a new home in this crazy, too-big (but frightenly small) world.
And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
You are young. You are confused. You are (sort of) on your own.
And it’s true that, at some point in our lives, it’s time to let go. We can’t hang on to the past forever. The world really does await us, and there really are far better things ahead than those we leave behind.
But those places and faces we’ve left behind are a part of who we are. In fact, they are more than a part of us.
They are us.
And we are them.
Without each other—without the places and faces we call “home”—we are nothing.
So allow yourself to hold on when you’re feeling lost and lonely and confused—and even when you aren’t.
Allow yourself to hold on, even as you begin to loosen your grip and take on the world.
Allow yourself to hold on to what you love.