Fear of the Familiar

| September 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

For two summers I have chosen to refrain from returning to the suburban streets of my hometown. I’ve found excuses to remain bundled in the BU safe-zone between the adulthood and childhood for the 3 month period when it’s actually my choice. Based on my choices, I haven’t been home for more than 2 weeks in the last 2 years.

Why? Well, I told my mother it was because I wanted to take advantage of all the opportunities that Boston could offer me and I told my friends that I wanted to see Boston without all of the other college students around. I told myself that I just really wanted to live in an apartment. Yet the truth that I’ve finally accepted about my choices is that I’m terrified of rejoining the life that I left behind. I’ve developed an unshakable fear of my familiar.

I don’t think I’m alone in this discomfort for returning to my recent roots, I know that I’m surrounded by others with the same alienation from the places and the people they grew up with. While Boston isn’t a utopia, the grass is always greener where you didn’t grow up.

I think my own fear of returning home for an extended period comes from being discomforted with confronting the people and the things I thought I left behind for good. Whenever I think of seeing  a familiar face, unanswerable questions pop into my head. What if I miss them? What if they miss me? What if we miss each other? Which is worse? I feel that if I leave the goodbyes undisrupted, the sadness that may have been left from the farewell will fade. Eventually, after enough absent summers, it won’t be hard to see the faces I said goodbye to anymore.  They won’t be friends or enemies. Just people that I knew at a point in my life. That is unrealistic, and probably impossible, but it’s part of what keeps my feet planted in this city throughout the year. I can’t miss you if I can’t see you.

Another reason I find myself hesitant to return to my roots is the frightening feeling that I’ll regret leaving. Leaving somewhere after a lifetime of familiarity is a difficult task. Returning to that place and being able to compare where you were, being able to decide if you made the right choice is a terrifying. What if there’s something I can’t take back with me? What if I was wrong? There is no going back now, so there is a nervousness attached to missing what I said goodbye to.

I think the biggest reason I can’t bring myself to drive across the state line again is that I will be able to revisit the person I was before I came to college. My purple painted walls and my teddy bear missing one eye are waiting for me in the corner room of my little stone house. When I walk inside my mother will hug me remind me to get ready for dinner. My  life will, in some ways, pick up exactly where it left off. I’ve never been able to decide if that is a bad thing, but there is something beautiful in the pseudo-independence that living at college has given me. The privilege of having no one to answer to is something that I take for granted until I step back into my matriarchs home. The thrill of having no reminders of who I was, but only choices as to who I want to be is a big reason that staying in Boston is always appealing. I don’t have to be the Moe that my town has known for 18 years. I can be the Moe who moved to Boston last year and is still figuring things out.

So, for a second year, I’ve flinched away from buying the train ticket home to the safe haven of my childhood home. While my heart hurts to hug the people who ask me each day, when are you out of school this year? When can I see you? I miss you, when are you coming home? When my heart breaks at the sound of my mother reacting to my news that I got hired in the city for the summer this year, I’ve come to terms with the fact that my fear of the familiar has been matched by my desire to stay in a place where I’ve begun to understand myself and my motivations much better. There is also comfort in knowing that when I’m ready to return, it’ll  be there waiting for me.

photo credit: GOLDEN DAYS IN OLD VIRGINIA via photopin (license)

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Category: Boston, Reflections

Monique Atkinson

About the Author ()

Moe is a senior studying Journalism and Sociology. If you're looking closely you can find her rereading anything by Oscar Wilde in a coffee shop, avoiding trains on Commonwealth Ave, or napping... pretty much anywhere.

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