When It Isn't Like It Should Be

On Monday we made a quick trip (well, as quick as a trip that involves a 5-hour drive each way can be) back home for Ben's company's holiday party. I plan the parties, and for the last couple years we've done some limo-riding and restaurant-hopping, but we always end back at a tried-and-true favorite restaurant. That restaurant happens to be a block from the house we own but no longer live in, so when the party ended we walked toward our house, like usual...and then past our house, our home, and turned the corner to walk another 2 blocks to our hotel for the night.

Since I've never needed to stay in a hotel there before, I never knew the vantage point it had. When I walked into our ro and looked out the windows, I saw everything. Every piece of the puzzle that I call home was all in one place, already assembled. The clock tower I used to run by, where I'd make a mental note of whether or not I'd be home by the time I told Ben I would be; the church that we walked into as fiancé and fiancée and walked out of husband and wife; the green patina on the roof of the apartment building that was our first Portsmouth home; the sidewalks with uneven bricks, where I earned almost every one of my running victories over the last 3 years; the aircraft carriers being repaired in dry docks; the river that I used to run alongside and drive under on a daily basis: it was all there.

I was apprehensive about moving back to Blacksburg, not because it isn't beautiful or interesting, but because despite those things it made me so gut-wrenchingly homesick the first time around. These two places, although both just small specks on the map, couldn't be more different. I remember seeing the movie Juno my senior year and a line from that movie, "I never realize how much I like being home unless I've been somewhere really different for a while," has always stuck with me. It was true in 2007 and apparently it's still true now.

Portsmouth isn't just home because it's the place I used to live. It's the common thread linking together everything I've ever poured my heart and soul into. It's where I vowed to love, honor, and cherish the most important person in my life for as long as we both shall live. It's where I started my career, then quit that career, neither of which was a small moment in any capacity. And leave it to me to turn any discussion into the topic of running, but it's where I learned to run and learned that I am so much more capable than I ever imagined. The magnitude of those things is not lost on me.

Ben and I have a print hanging in our home that says, "Wherever we are together that is home" (I know, again with the quotes about home...?). We had it in our Portsmouth home and now our Balcksburg home, and I want so desperately for it to be true. I don't want to be so attached to things or places or even memories. I just don't think I fully realized before now that moving would be such a sacrifice for me. I was so focused on how much of a sacrifice Ben was making for me (having to work remotely and travel more often) that I didn't consider that I would have to sacrifice some things. Or maybe I did, and I told myself it would be okay, because how can I look at it as a sacrifice when ultimately I am getting exactly what I want?

The next day, just as soon as we had arrived, we went to leave. As we drove away it still stung to think about all the memories we left behind and all the new ones we don't get to make there, but then I thought about what made me want to move in the first place. That stinging, pining, aching feeling I got just from looking out a Portsmouth window was the same one, magnified by 10 or 100, that I used to get when I was a teacher and my students would talk about going to Virginia Tech. It's the same one I used to get whenever Ben's degree came up in conversation with a stranger, and I would feel inadequate in some way, like I missed the boat on something I know I should have done. It's the one I would get last year, when I went to a school closer to home that I knew deep down wasn't the right fit.

I've had some ups and downs lately. I feel like I've pressed on, full-steam ahead for the whole semester, and the closer I get to the end, with so many dates and deadlines and projects and exams, the tighter and closer the blinders get. So, just for a second, I loosened them a little and tried not to focus so much on the past and the would-be future, but on the now, especially the alternative now. Alternative now felt worse than actual now. So I kept driving and I left Portsmouth behind.

And then I had a singalong to Oh, Comely and I got all the words right and everything felt a little bit better.


  1. I completely understand. Even though it's been years since I lived in Pittsburgh, every time I go back I still feel that pain every time I go back. I know it's my city and what I love but not where I need to be. Maybe one day but I still love and miss it.

  2. I am going through a little bit of homesickness myself right now. I've not lived in Florida for 7 years, but this year I am really homesick for the holidays there, being with my parents, and (let's be honest) the weather! It's not somewhere I could see myself living in again, but these feelings have raised a lot of questions for me lately. But then I take a look at all the good I have where we live now, and can't imagine leaving! So I just spend a little time with my memories and cherish them, and then concentrate on making new memories with my family now.

  3. Hey I'm always having a homesickness party. I'm sorry you are as well.
    I always say 'home is where the heart is' and while it's true, it's also not. my heart is in both places and i hate my heart for that. no matter where i am, i miss somewhere and someone. sometimes my heart quickens and i feel sick to my stomach when i think about the future and the fact that i will most likely never call Australia home again. And then I feel the same about KY. I hate how we fall in love with places.
    I wish I could say or do something to help!
    I don't know the words to Oh, Comely so kudos to you my friend.
    Also, stupidest question ever possibly? Which Portsmouth are you talking about? I think I know, but I don't want to assume, and I feel stupid, apologies!

  4. I too love that line from Juno, and it resonates with me a lot too. It used to be more about family, but some of my favorite family members don't live in NJ or near me anymore. And indeed, the one person I wish to never see again is closer than pretty much any other family. But as I get older I realize it's not about family. It's about all the things I love being unified here. From my town, which is not where I grew up but less than 20 minutes away and IS where I went to college, I'm less than an hour from the mountains, the city, and the beach. I know how to act and be here, and I can never be lost. I know what to expect of people here, and I know what's expected of me. And I *like* all those things. I can't wait to show you my town, honestly.
    I can sense some unrest as the end of the semester draws near and I know the stress must be suffocating at times. And then it's compounded by homesickness. I don't envy everything you're facing right now, but I know you can get through it all and I can't wait to pat you on the back when you do what Tracy does and come through like a boss.

  5. I'm very attached to home. I get what you're saying. I'm glad you're pushing on.

  6. It is so easy to get attached to somewhere that you have lived for awhile and have ties too, and so hard to make a new place seem like home. I get that. Now and thing I have pings of homesickness but like you I push through and this place feels like home now.

  7. Hopefully by now you know how much I love reading your blog but I just have to say reason #2232 is because you make me THINK! I enjoy reading your thoughts and then I think about how I feel about the subject!
    I'm glad you've been able to push through the hard stuff and I think with that degree in your hand next winter, you'll know it was all worth it! :)

  8. I think it's impossible not to feel that way about a place that has so many memories. I haven't actually been home since we moved, but I know it's going to make me feel very sentimental and it will be tempting to want to slip back into the life that we had there. There's a chance my boyfriend will be back home for a work placement this summer and it's so strange to think that he might be there, but not living in the house that we still own there. I think he has a harder time than I do because it's his home city. I lived there for almost a decade, but he has all those childhood memories there that I don't have. We both know that we moved for a reason and that the life we had there wasn't what we wanted, but it's still hard.

  9. Ah places have such attachments to them I loved reading this your words made those places seem so special :)

  10. this is such a beautiful post! i am so glad I stumbled across your blog! xoxo

  11. It can be so hard to not be where you want to be. I applaud you for taking the time to focus on why you miss home, yet still trying to make the best out of your current situation. Such a beautiful post.

  12. I think it's hard to embrace change in general, no matter what it is. Leaving behind something that once was home is so very hard, but if you know you're doing the right thing then that feeling will fade. You mentioned you still own that home--are you guys planning to return there someday?

  13. A lot of people I know are in this "mood" right now - and I'm with you! Just in a semi-funk. You aren't alone in the up-and-down mood swinging!

    Reading this post almost made me miss Minneapolis. Almost... Then the news came on and said they were expecting 6 inches of snow, and that got fixed real quick!

    1. Glad to know I'm not alone! :)

      Haha! I don't know how you can go from one weather extreme to another!


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