For the past two years, I’ve chronicled my adventures traveling around the globe while I teach English as a second language. My readers have followed me from the Far East to the Middle East and back. Today’s article brings me a bit closer to home; actually, it brings me as close as one can get to home. This week, I visited my childhood house for the last time. It holds a great deal of memories for me and it’s been sold to somebody else. I will never set foot inside those walls again.

A Foreboding Abode
A Foreboding Abode

I’m not alone in the experience or the emotion. Moving on from childhood into adulthood is so common that literally everyone does it. Hell, there’s even an entire genre of fiction – Rite of Passage – written solely for the purpose of exploring those situations and feelings (I’m sure you’ve all seen Stand By Me). The dictionary definition of Rite of Passage is, ‘an event marking an important stage in someone’s life, especially birth, puberty, marriage, and death.’ Losing the house you grew up in qualifies.

The problem is I’m not quite sure how to feel about it. Obviously, as in the case with most things, it’s not all good and not all bad – not a simple black and white issue. There are mixed feelings. As a rule, I tend to shy away from sentimentality. I don’t associate emotional attachment with inanimate objects (houses included). So while most people might experience pangs of loss or regret, I find myself mostly pang free.

No Caption Necessary...
No Caption Necessary…

But how do I feel about it? We moved into the house in the spring of ’86 when I was finishing up kindergarten – young enough to not have any loyalties to schools or friends, but old enough to comprehend and remember life before this house. That being said, almost all of my public education occurred in the same district with the same friends over the same stomping grounds. I can look back on many of those memories and smile fondly, regardless of whether or not my parents occupy that home.

Some of my readers (mostly family) might see this as a bad thing. They may wonder why I’m so detached and seem indifferent toward the sale. They would be justified in their concern. One of the biggest hurdles in my personal life has involved coming across as apathetic toward others. It’s a problem for anyone with an over-inflated ego (hey, I never claimed to be perfect). And truthfully, I do have a lot of affection for those people and the wonderful times we shared. For instance:

  • Christmas mornings spent waiting at the top of the stairs for Mom and Dad to make coffee and apply the finishing touches to the gifts under the tree.
  • Learning to ride a bicycle (and parallel park the car) on our street.
  • Playing video games all night long with friends during sleepovers.
  • The year my cousin, Amy, came to live with us.
  • Hosting a viewing party for the James Bond spoof film I made for my high school speech and media class.
  • Hours spent tickling the ivories on our living room piano.
  • Family game nights.
  • Coming in from the cold snow to steaming mugs of hot chocolate and Indiana Jones or Star Wars movie marathons.
  • Graduating from microwave to oven/stove cooking.
  • Long days exploring the nearby woods and late nights running around the neighborhood yelling, ‘Jailbreak!’
  • Summers spent weeding and mowing the yard in the humidity. (Okay, so they’re not ALL great)

Sure, there were some wonderful moments. However, I don’t necessarily connect them to the house itself. I connect those amazing memories to the people involved. As Dave Matthews said in his song, The Best of What’s Around, “Turns out, not where but who you’re with that really matters.” There’s a lot of wisdom in rock ‘n roll. The building… the structure… didn’t (and doesn’t) matter.

What saddens me about moving on from that place is how the people I care about are gone. They’re no longer there. My family and friends with whom I shared all of those experiences have also moved on to (hopefully) bigger and better things. That’s what I’m going to miss the most. Not the bedroom. Not the finished basement. Not the backyard. No. I’m okay waving goodbye to the physical location. That doesn’t hurt at all. What hurts is having to say goodbye to the people.

The 'Gang' in High School (Unfortunately, I'm only still in touch with one of the guys)
The ‘Gang’ in High School (Unfortunately, I’m only still in touch with one of the guys)

There’s a quote that I can’t quite remember, but basically the gist is that no matter how far away you travel in the world, you’ll always be able to come home. With family and friends like I have, I guess home will remain with them and not boxed inside four empty walls where we used to gather.

I will miss my parents who are beginning a new adventure of their own into retirement. I will miss my sister who has relocated, married, and is now expecting her first child. I will miss cruising around, windows down, with my friends from high school, screaming Ben Folds Five songs at the top of our lungs. I will miss family gatherings at the holidays or special occasions like graduations and birthdays.

But everyone misses those things. Everybody grows up and moves on. We all look longingly back at our youth, to a simpler time, for answers to life’s hard questions. As I continue to do that, I also will look ahead at what’s to come with excitement and a hint of mystery. The unknown has always made me both nervous and enthusiastic.

I enjoy change. Jen and I continue to seek out new and wondrous cultures on a shared path. I remain confident that my loved ones are doing the same. So in that spirit, I take a deep breath and plunge forward into the future, not with regret, but instead with anticipation and the optimism that life always finds a way of working out and providing for us what we need most.

Until Next Time…

-Justin

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3 thoughts on “A Bittersweet Symphony

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