I grew up in a small town where e’rybody and I mean e’rybody knew your name. Couldn’t walk across the street without folks on the other side knowing you were already coming. I couldn’t WAIT ‘til I was eighteen years old to get outta there. And I did, y’all! Did I hate my home town? NO, I just outgrew it. I’ve got sixty-four first cousins. Some might say I got too big for my home-town britches, and some might say I needed to spread my wings and soar. They both might be right and I’m not afraid to admit it. ‘ cause I know I’m a big city girl! Some of y’all know exactly what I mean. Whether you were trying to get away from being little Becky Sue so you could be grown-up Rebecca, or you pulled some stupid prank when you were seventeen and nobody – including potential employers – would let you forget it, you had to get out of Smallville, USA. Or maybe you just wanted to see another part of the world instead of those same streets into your town and those same streets out. You KNOW I feel you.

Now, the thing is, I do get super nostalgic when I go home – for about two days max. I meet up with my bestie and we head over to the El Asteca restaurant (couldn’t tell me nothin’ about Mexican food until I got out of Fort Wayne, Indiana!). I love that I can do still that. At the same time, stepping back into a culture that you outgrew is like stepping into a pair of too-small slippers: confining!

But, home is still home. What can you do to handle going home again?

You’ve gotta set expectations of how long you’ll stay. Don’t get lost back in that childhood bedroom of yours with the familiar twin beds and revert back to that person who used to live there. Yeah, it’s nice your mom might still do your laundry and cook your favorite meal and maybe even give you cookies and milk. It’s also nice that you CAN go to that local bar or restaurant where they still know your name. There is something super special about that, especially as we get older. With my mom having passed recently, what I wouldn’t give to have her cook for me again, but I’ll tell you that even for her funeral, I was in for one night – told everybody that’s how long I was staying – and then I was out. I just knew I’d get a little lost if I stayed longer.

See people through new eyes; you’re not the only one who changed, honey! Some folks have stayed in their hometown and are thriving in their own way. Take a chance (ie, stop being judgey) and get to know Cooky Clarence who sat behind you in math class; he just may have started his own local nuts ‘n bolts warehouse business and could very well use your marketing skills to help him get the word out. I have a friend who started a non-profit and now we’re talking business; I’m trying to figure out how I can make a difference and help. This never would have happened if we hadn’t kept the conversation going and also saw each other for the people we had become as adults. And side note, this applies to family members left behind, as well. Just because they stayed home on Main Street doesn’t mean they ain’t got nothing going on. If they haven’t, then see the tip above!

Facebook can be your long-lost friend…and maybe a travel agent? I’ve got plenty of friends who say that thanks to Facebook, they don’t really need to go home, especially to that high school reunion. (I’m not saying you shouldn’t go! GO!) I just know that the friends that found me on Facebook and vice versa are the ones I wanted to keep in touch with, and we have. It can be kind of amazing to get in contact with that person who knows the real you from when you were fifteen years old. Planning a trip back home to see that person could be worth all the money in the world, and all the feels. You’ll both feel better about going home ‘cause you know you’ll have each other.

No matter your reason for leaving, I do hope that you have a sense of knowing that, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, there’s no place like home. A place where you can be loved no matter what and to be loved just for you.

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