The thing about moving 2,000 miles away from your hometown is this: you’re now 2,000 miles away from your hometown. That means that unless you were a military brat who didn’t really have a hometown, you’re 2,000 miles away from everything that is so intimately familiar to you – people, streets, food, etc. – and daily attempting to either recreate or sublimate that where you currently live. So this means that you’re either Me From Twelve Years Ago, who missed St. Louis so much and grew so homesick with every single day that it made divorcing a pathological liar and philanderer kind of easy because at least it meant I could move back home, or you’re Me From Right Now, who is so completely different from that other Me to the point that every day spent away from St. Louis is another day where it is realized that I am better for this time and distance.
Which is not easy for a lot of people to understand. Understandably, people are defensive about where they choose to live (or continue living) and their personal reasons for doing so become a kind of argument for this non-existent competition they create between themselves and you, as if the 2,000 mile gap wasn’t enough of a barrier to begin with.
And even for the people who do understand that choosing to live somewhere else doesn’t necessarily mean you hate where you’re from, it can be difficult for them to understand why you may not want to come back. I mean, obviously, when you are very happy living in a particular place, the reasons for leaving it might seem kind of dumb. But when the place you are very happy living in is your hometown, those reasons are underpinned by things like history and intimacy and other gut-deep emotions that make it especially hard to imagine not existing in someone else who shares your background.
For these people, it is not so easy to understand not only why I don’t want to move back to St. Louis at any point in the foreseeable future, but why I’m also reluctant to come back to visit. Visiting is fine. At first. Sometimes. But let’s look at visiting for what it really is – taking vacation time from work and lots of your own money to do something that isn’t a vacation at all, but is rather an obligation.
And I am sick of obligations.
In the 2+ years that I have lived in Seattle, I have visited St. Louis twice. I have spent money to fly home, rent vehicles, and fulfill obligations to see several people who have not expressed any plans to return the favor by coming to Seattle. When I explained to my immediate family that I would not be visiting St. Louis in 2015 in favor of taking my first actual vacation with my boyfriend of 8 years, they reacted…poorly. While there was no outrage, there were pursed lips and obvious disappointment, as well as at least one accusation that perhaps I didn’t care about seeing my nephews at all. When I explained that travel went from St. Louis to Seattle, as well, I was told that travel costs money (um, duh) and time (again, duh) and nobody could be expected to do that. Except for me, apparently.
So far, the efforts I’ve made to try and convince members of my family to visit me in Seattle have failed. Everyone has plans. Everyone has responsibilities. It costs money. Never have they acknowledged that I’ve already done this twice, or that several of my friends have come to visit (one set visited twice!) already. And I wouldn’t really mind that much – my family has never been very close, and I can hardly be blamed for allowing that to shape part of my personality – but if I’m getting guilt-tripped about it, then yeah, I think it requires some attention.
I’m not going home this year. I’m not going home next year, either. I’m not going home until those people can live up to their part of the bargain and make at least one trip out here. But I’m tired of asking. I’m tired of convincing. Of offering options, of checking on flights, of looking up nearby hotels for people who never use the information.
See you in 2017, maybe? Or after that. Doesn’t matter to me, it’s not my obligation anymore.