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Nostos, or My Homecoming

Hello, again, my friends. The year is closing and I’m having a lot of feelings.

In my personal life, I have had a tumultuous year, choosing to take on several major life changes all at once in the search for fulfillment, freedom, and even joy.

It began with a nearly 2000 mile drive, with all of my worldly possessions in a rented van, houseplants lovingly tucked by the window, my cats curled up with each other in the passenger seat crate. As I turned onto my street for the last time, the future I thought I had dissipated behind me, a wisp from a candle blown out under my cupped palm.

I leapt into the great unknown, leaving behind my apartment, my job, my relationships. The turmoil that lashed about within me during the weeks before was caught, suspended in the sky of that October morning, and hung there, writhing, as I carried myself home.

Home. My homecoming. Nostos. The Greek obsession with the idea of a warrior, traveler, or hero on the final leg of their journey, the way home: now, an experience I claim as my own. I am not the same as when I left home several years ago, shaking and nervous, full of doubts, a cavern of directionless yearning. No, as I merged onto the freeway heading northwest, I carried more, but doubted less. I knew where I was going. I knew what I wanted was ahead of me.

The days were long, but the miles short. Turmeric yellows gave way to thick, lusty greens as trees crept in on the flat land. Plains gave way to hills, then mountains thrust up suddenly from the earth like the backs of icy serpents. The Cascades curled around me, ominous in the fog but still familiar, even welcoming. Those mountains led me down into the pacific northwest, where I was born.

I stopped only briefly. I took pictures of signs at gas stations, hit a few Taco Bells. I spoke to a man in a hotel in Sioux about his daughter, who was pregnant, and the whole family was gathering for her baby shower. I bought a blackberry milkshake in Montana. I recorded hours of Voice Memos, some of which are long minutes of silence, so that I might return one day and reflect on the experience. I stood over a lake somewhere in eastern Washington, my heart struggling to free itself from my chest as the mist rose over the water.

After four days, I pulled into the parking lot of my new apartment, lease signed unseen. My father saw me first. He put up his hand.

I wax poignant not only to share my journey, but because the move itself forced me to reevaluate my priorities. I could have gone anywhere, realistically — Vermont is beautiful, Oregon is not too expensive, New York has everything, not to mention all of the amazing cities outside of the US — but my family lives in Washington, and my heart led me back home to them. With nothing but selflessness, they offered a soft place to land, strong arms to lift cheap furniture, gentle voices to remind me of my worth and open hands that filled the cracks.

My dear friends, too, offered what they could and then some. Each in their own way, they were ready and willing to listen to the gritty realities of what pushed me out of Kansas City and back to the Seattle area, nodding as I unfolded the truths I had carefully tied up and placed away in the lockbox of my mind, validating and even offering permission to free me from my guilt, my fears, my late lonely nights that even wine and trashy TV could not banish entirely.

I realize how lucky I am to have these people around me, and I am deeply, deeply grateful for them. I would not have been okay without the overwhelming love and support that I let in. But I will not understate that the constant, ultimately, was me. At 25, I have stepped gently into myself. I won’t pretend I have complete control over my life. No one does, but sovereignty is taken, not granted, and in my moment of damnable fear, my middle of the night crisis, I reached one hand into the unknown and plucked my own fate out of the ether and placed it where I wished.

I carried myself, my belongings, and my little furry friends across the country. I cried in cheap hotels and carried on. I ate when I did not want to, I drove when I would have preferred to stay in bed, I reached out when I might have preferred to sink into the familiar but terrible chasm that lives in the center of my chest. For all of the struggle, I had my nostos. And I was welcomed. After four days, salt dried on cheeks, roads that curved endlessly with the land, I was overcome by the simple but soul-stirring reason I had returned: the hand of my father, up in the air, hailing my homecoming.

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