After over a decade living abroad I’m back in the town I grew up in.
This town bore witness to my birth, my first steps, three primary schools and my secondary education. During the first 18 years of my life I’d lived in eight different houses in this small town and the surrounding area, six of those before the age of 12. It is here where my early life formed me as a country girl, used to quietness, green fields and natural beauty; where I had my first kiss, experimented with alcohol and smoking; where I lost my virginity, worked my first job; where I met my oldest friends. It is also here where I experienced unimaginable pain and loss.
For the last decade I’ve been living in a city in another country, quite a different life to the one where I grew up. The pace of life faster; green fields fewer. Living in a foreign city has broadened my horizons; I’ve mastered a new language, gone to university, established a career, met new friends from diverse backgrounds and cultures. I have created my own home and refused to move from it for the past nine years. I have searched for stability; in people, in my job, in my cats, desperate to quell the fear of pain and loss repeating itself.
The wounds from my past did not heal. They did not heal by holding on like crazy to people, my job, my cats, or my home. The years have however made it possible for me to be ready now to unravel the patches placed over those wounds, to see, thank and say goodbye to those strategies no longer serving me.
My apartment is now rented out, my cats being taken care of by a friend, I’ve quit my job and I am navigating life as a single woman. I’m vulnerable. My wounds are now open to the world, open to me finally seeing them. And with that seeing a healing can occur. I’m back in my old home town where I grew up. Staying with mum in a room upstairs, a different house this time, but very similar to the ones I remember as a little girl.
I’ve visited my home town over the years for short stays, but this time it is different. This time I’m here to face my past. This time I come daring to feel. I felt overwhelmed in the first days, I felt sure everyone would know my shameful past. What shame? The shame a small girl didn’t deserve to take on as her own yet did. The shame that I’m broken. The shame that I have such gaping holes in my heart. The shame of returning.
The town appears so small after the years living in a city. Distances I thought were great feel now like a leisurely stroll, the buildings are tiny. I look down my nose at the people ‘still here’, those who never ‘got away’ and find I’m judging them harshly, assuming a narrow, sheltered existence must accompany their local accent. Driving, I still know the curves in the winding roads like it was a part of my own body; the green hills, the quiet, the sound of the birds, the smell in the air, so subtly different to anywhere else in the world make my heart weep.
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