Why It’s Hard To Go “Back Home”…John Page Burton

Recently, I enjoyed a wonderful evening of food and laughter with some good friends. We share the commonality of growing up in small towns and it wasn’t long before a humorous conversation ensued that centered on how uncomfortable we usually feel when we return home for a visit. We laughed about the “zingers” we routinely endure from family and friends. These “zingers” come in various forms, but the common theme is “how we could have possibly given up all of this, (hometown) to go there”. I shared a story of returning home for my forty-fifth birthday and how strange it was to see my childhood friend George, cruising up and down main street, his wife cuddled next to him in the front seat. As I enjoyed dinner at a sidewalk cafe overlooking the avenue, George passed by at least ten times. I fondly recalled how as teenagers George and I had routinely cruised from one end of town to the other talking about our dreams and how we were going to “blow this place” after graduation. I couldn’t help but wonder why George had never “blown the place”. I was also reminded of a quote by the late author, Thomas Wolf, who so eloquently stated “you can’t go home again”. I can’t help but draw a parallel to another quote I have grown to appreciate, “a mind expanded never returns to its original size”.
Below are some of the reasons why I believe it is uncomfortable to return home.
The crab pot analogy. If you have spent any time around the ocean you may have come upon a crab pot. As crabs are caught they are thrown into a pot that is void of a lid. You might be thinking to yourself, wouldn’t the crabs just crawl out and return to the ocean? The answer is NO, but not for a lack of trying. You see, as one crab begins to climb up the side of the pot and make a break for freedom, another crab will attach himself to the freedom seeking crab and pull him back down into the pot. This process repeats itself time and again, thus there isn’t a need to put a lid on a crab pot. Anytime we venture out of our comfort zone to explore new worlds or experience new things, we are bound to encounter people, often well-meaning friends and family members, who desire to “pull us back down” in order to keep us from disrupting their COMFORT ZONE. They will use criticism, sarcasm or other deflections to offset their own deep seeded fear of “leaving home”. We must keep CLIMBING!!!
Dumbing down. When we expand and grow, we become aware of the plethora of amazing opportunities available to us. Much like a child visiting Disneyland for the first time, we become consumed with our adventure and develop an unquenchable thirst for more. We now know what lies beyond the “city limits” and we are excited to return home and share this new found knowledge with our family and friends. Sadly, a short time after our arrival, we begin to notice that in our absence something has dramatically changed. We find ourselves “dumbing down” in order to hold a conversation while our friends and family gaze at us with vacant stares and robotically nod their heads as we describe our adventures in this “brave new world”. Within hours we feel stifled, frustrated and yearning to leave home again. We must keep LEARNING and GROWING!!!
Guilt. After choosing to leave the “city limits” of our youth, many of us find ourselves feeling guilty for making the decision to move forward. It was never our intention to hurt the feelings of our family and friends but we knew that staying around for their benefit would mean giving up on our dreams. Life is a process of trial and error and quite frankly most of us experience a great deal of error. When we return home and begin sharing our life lessons, we are often reminded by our loved ones just how “good we had it” and how sad everyone is that “we chose to leave them behind”. Initially, this drama can be easy to buy into and we may even entertain thoughts that we are being selfish and self-centered. We must remember that this is our personal journey and it is good to be SELF-CENTERED!!!
“Going home again” may be a physical visit or it may be a trip down memory lane. Once we have left the confines of “home” and entered the bigger picture we will never be the same. It is our acceptance of who we are today, combined with an appreciation of our past that allows us to step into our future.

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