I don’t think I ever really absorbed the depth of the phrase, “you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone.” I understood it conceptually, but to experience it is a whole different level. It’s so common that it’s almost silent when it is uttered, and it flies over your head without a second thought.
Yes, I guess I could be talking about friends who I have lost in the past or past relationships that I still miss. Those are the personal connections that come and go in my life that I will undoubtedly learn to appreciate more as I reminisce about the memories associated with them, but those are only the smaller component in the wider scope of what I’ve come to realize after leaving my college campus in a rush due to the pandemic.
I learned to love my hometown. And hate it. It’s complicated. We’re working on it.
But that said, there’s so much about my small suburban town that I have come to appreciate in the three months that I have been home. I think that growing up in Washington, I grew accustomed to the trees that accompanied me on every walk and drive. I was used to a light or heavy layer of clouds detailing the sky, never absent from my sight. I took for granted the rain that I resented every day as I walked to and from class.
Moving to California for school was a no-brainer since I was born there. I felt like I was meant to be a California Girl and return to my roots. I actually didn’t have too hard of a time adjusting to the new environment since a lot of Palo Alto resembled my home from the abundance of trees to the mild weather. That said, there were still not as many clouds as I would have liked and the atmosphere was definitely devoid of rain. I started to miss home, but that longing didn’t really manifest until I was back in Washington this past March.
It’s like suddenly I’m more acutely aware of everything that makes Washington what it is.
It’s so corny, but there’s still scent that comes from after it rains and you’re walking in the forest. I don’t know exactly what it comes from, but it’s like a combination of pine, soil, and water that you can’t describe. It’s almost like the smell becomes a sensation in your body, and it brings nostalgia from who-knows-where. Everytime I’m outside after it rains and I get that feelings, I just want to sink into the ground peacefully. I know it sounds cheesy. Please bear with me here.
There’s also something very grandiose about the trees looming over my house. I am very fortunate to have a view from my bedroom, so I woke up every morning and saw the same trees. Did I ever consider them my friends? No. They’re trees. Do I consider them my friends now? Yes, because I feel more individually attached to each of them as a being that’s populating my perspective.
My hometown itself also just seems to be so perfect in itself. There’s one or two of everything, enough to sustain a simple lifestyle. And right in our small downtown, there’s an old railroad that runs rights through the main street. The train doesn’t run there anymore, but I do. It brings back so much nostalgia.
That said, these artifices don’t stand alone. I have so many thoughts and memories tied to them. Obviously, the bad memories that paint certain areas of my town are places I want to consciously avoid and as more and more memories resurface, I can barely drive around my town without feeling sentimental injury and fear of who I used to be in the eyes of myself. I have a lot of things that I regret, such as friendships that ended sourly. With those sour friendships came the good memories that preceded the fall, and the locations where the good memories happened just make me want to leave my town even more.
I know that people become stronger by facing their mistakes and bad experiences head on, but when they literally consume you because you are physically living in the embodiment of your past, it is difficult. It is really difficult. Because those memories will persist as long as you let them. I think that my newfound appreciation for the objective features of my hometown are meant to neutralize the negative energy that accompanies other features.
All that said, I’m happy to be home, and I just wanted to share that with the rest of the world.