“You Can’t Go Home Again”…John Page Burton

Recently, I enjoyed a wonderful evening of food and laughter with some good friends. We share the commonality of having grown up in a small town and thus a conversation began around how uncomfortable we usually felt when we returned home to visit. We laughed about the “zingers” we routinely endure from family and friends. These “zingers” come in various forms but the common theme seems to be centered around “how we could have possibly given up all of this (home town) to go there”. I shared a story of returning home shortly after my forty fifth birthday and how surprised I was to see my childhood friend George, still cruising main street with 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 remembered as teenagers how George and I routinely cruised from one end of town to the other, all the while talking about our dreams and how we were going to “blow this place” after we graduated. I couldn’t help but feel a profound sadness that George had never “blown the place”. I am also reminded of a quote by the late author, Thomas Wolf, who so eloquently stated “you cant go home again”. I can’t help but draw a parallel to another quote I have grown to appreciate, “an expanded mind never returns to it’s original size”. Here are some of the reasons why I believe it is so uncomfortable for most of us 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 doesn’t have 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. As a 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 and therefore there is never 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 down” in order to keep us from disrupting their COMFORT ZONE. They will use criticism, sarcasm or other deflection techniques to counter their deep seeded fear of “leaving home”. We must keep CLIMBING!!!

Dumbing down. When we expand and grow, we become aware of just how many amazing opportunities are available to us. Much like a child visiting Disneyland for the first time, we become consumed with the adventure and develop an unquenchable thirst for more. We now know what lies beyond the city limits and we are excited to return home to share our new found knowledge with the people we love and care about. Sadly, a short time after our arrival, we can’t help but notice that in our absence something has dramatically changed. We experience a noticeable disconnect and we find ourselves “dumbing down” in order to hold a conversation. Our friends and family gaze at us with vacant stares and robotically nod their heads as we talk about our “brave new world”.  Within hours we are feeling 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.

As always, I appreciate your thoughts and feedback.