I’m going home.
But it’s not really home, and has not been for 13 years. Or more if you count the fact that it was home between protracted absences for a couple if years before that.
Over the course of the journey I find myself getting wistful for some things. I really appreciated being by the water and the view. I’d always enjoyed the scenery and the view but I’d never realised that it was special. Remembering some of the things I used to get up to, in a more vivid form than some of the conversations I have had since, I realise that I’ve become urban. Not in a hip-hop, “d’ya feel me, bruv” kind of way but definitely more town than country.
I have changed. Things here, not surprisingly, have too. Some of the old faces have gone. Most of the remaining faces have changed a little – none so dramatically remodelled as mine – and some have hardly changed at all. The scenery too has shifted in places, but not, save for the infringement of nature, moved at all in others.
The first thing that strikes home is how much smaller everything seems. The whole village has become a wagon wheel. What? You’re told it hasn’t changed size, and part of you deep down knows that to be true, but it’s undeniably, somehow irrefutably smaller.
The other curious aspect is about me. This was the family home. We were a collective, my identity was a function of that whole – “he’s ___ and ___’s boy/child/son”. These were, and are, lovely people but they were family friends, my parent’s friends. In assorted ways they contributed towards my education and here I stand, bigger, stronger, more care-worn and, terrifyingly, older. Polite conversation, welcoming conversation but still that back and forth of polite strangers whose common ground is eroding.
Whimsical smiles arise, prompted by pinpricks of forgotten memories brought forth by sounds, smells and faces. But inside I’m regressing. This is my past and it has the familiar warmth of an old blanket. I’m sinking into it, stripping away the years of growth and development and I’m a child again. Like using that old blanket in a British Spring, it feels comfortable, it’s warming but it’s a small dose thing- you like it, you want it but you’ll get too warm and put it to one side – but I know I’ll need that warmth again before too long!
So, what have I learned?
Programming runs deep! Sometimes, to know how far you’ve come, you have to look back.
Confidence, identity and sense of self appear to be situational – as much as part of me might want it, for the most part this isn’t my world any more – I’m an anonymous tourist (NB this is a generalisation, some parts felt so much like family – you know who you are). I’m attached to people – in a passive, distant, almost collector’s kind of way. Just like in what’s now my home, my world, this new part of my life, I love all of these people in their different ways, to different extents. Their fingerprints will always be on my life but I feel, for the most part, outside of theirs. I’ll always be there if they need me – friends and family both – but I’m selfish, closed and insular. In moderation this is not a negative. I wait; I watch; I listen; I occasionally jump in but always from the background. Another piece of my puzzle clicks into place.
On the return voyage I witness a scene which probably sums up the trip a bit better.
A man puts his around the door of the carriage to check we’re going to London. That information confirmed, he swaps places with an older man who boards the train. Fond farewells are exchanged. The older man ventures further into the carriage, sits and becomes absorbed in his papers and Blackberry [other mobile communication devices are available]. Meanwhile the younger man takes up his post outside the carriage and waves as the train pulls away and the two men move in opposite directions, the older man seemingly oblivious to the younger. This old chapter of my life is like that: it has carried on, and will carry on as I spin off and drift away into the distance, briefly waving before turning away. And as I stand on my platform I wonder if they know or feel the same.
But you know what – it doesn’t matter.
We all move in our various orbits, occasionally sharing a trajectory but eventually we head in our own direction. Will we know how much the path has changed for the sharing? Probably not but that shouldn’t get in the way of enjoying the ride.