It’s the last year of high school, and young minds are turning their fickle attention to the thought of leaving home. This seems a natural progression: parents have child; raise child; help child with bumps and bruises, homework and car insurance; child graduates from high school and flees far from parents, returning on weekends to do laundry and eat home-cooked meals. But what happens when said child loses home right before leaving?
My family has lived in my home since I was two weeks old. Seventeen years later, as I got ready to leave for university, my parents decided that our charming little house was no longer the ideal abode and that it was time to move. And naturally, I panicked.
At first the prospect of leaving my childhood home was gruesome. After all, this was the place I used to run around with friends; where I got sunburned chasing ants with sidewalk chalk; where I would sit for hours staring out the window, making up songs about the passersby. If we were to move, the new house wouldn’t be my home at all, just a strange, new place. I felt that these were all valid grounds for total outrage until I discussed it with a friend who’d moved several times. He couldn’t fathom why I’d be so upset about moving a few subway stops away. Clearly I was just being silly and overly sentimental. After all, I’d be moving out to go to university. But something still didn’t sit quite right.
I’d come to terms with the idea of leaving childhood things behind, despite the fact that the decision to move wasn’t mine. After all, throwing away childhood things is all well and good, but it’s better if it’s your choice. I’d still banked on coming home for a nostalgic visit every now and then, perhaps with the selfish hope of finding my room just as I’d left it.
This hope of a personal shrine was crushed by my parents’ stubborn levelheadedness. It seemed their desire for a better house in a better neighborhood far outstripped my vague yearning for monuments in my honor. Their selfish rationality even extended so far as to plan our move in early December, when I’d be in the throes of midterm evaluations and university applications. In a horrifyingly ironic twist, they inferred that I was mature enough to handle the added responsibility of moving, along with my own work and extra-curriculars.
And then it hit me: this is what the move was really about. I wasn’t concerned with losing my childhood bedroom, or having to take an extra bus to get to school. What was bothering me was that I’d be confronted with a huge, tangible reminder that I’d soon be completely responsible for myself.
When I do go to university, I’ll go without a safe haven to come home to. Of course I’ll have my family’s love and support, but symbolically I’ll never be able to go home again.
As graduating high-school students, we’re all in love with the idea of going away and having wild adventures, provided we always have someplace to return to. Leaving the family home behind is really just growing up without a safety net. It’s not an epic change, but still nothing to sniff at. The move from one place in life to another is an important one. Because it’s true, you can never go home. Not really. But maybe, once you’ve had an adventure or two, you can go back for a nice visit.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.