OTTAWA, ONTARIO: They say you can never go home again. Now, I have never quite figured out who ‘they’ are but they seem to speak the truth sometimes. There is something different about going back ‘home’ once you are an adult. There could be quite an intangible definition of where/what actually constitutes ‘home’. I am 32 years old. I should have my own home; many people my age have their own families, houses, etc. But is where you are from your true home? Some people come from bad homes in their pasts and would rather forget. Others can’t seem to grow up.
I have made a home away from where I grew up for over ten years now. I staked my claim by going away to university. This led to somewhat of a nomadic life: Moving from residence room to residence room, summer sublets, friend’s couches. I went through a series of post-university apartments. The longest in one place was three years while the shortest was a matter of months.
I always had roommates and enjoyed my time being around someone that I did not have any real responsibility towards. Naturally, if you move in with a friend as I did, you develop a close relationship. By responsibility I mean an individual who is your future partner, the person you would ‘buy’ something with and who will be with you for the rest of your life.
For the past two years, I’ve lived alone. I would say this is the closest I’ve come to having my own space, my own home. I do what I want, when I want. Sure, it gets lonely and it’s strange to have people over – even close friends. It works for me at the moment.
I get these reminiscing feelings whenever I return to Ottawa, the city of my youth. Everything looks the same (especially in Ottawa where change happens glacially slow) but I am different. Or I like to think so. I enjoy riding around to my old haunts and wonder if I would have done anything different. The answer is constantly and inevitably: Sometimes yes and sometimes no.
Do we leave little parts of ourselves trailing behind us? Along the river where I would ride my bike as a kid? The roads I walked to get to school? The school itself: What would those walls say if they could talk? The room that I slept in, the swimming pool where I learned to dive? Do I exist in some small way in all these places or not at all?
High school friends have moved on to other cities, other countries and some remain. They are anchors and are happy to stay. I believe I am a wonderer: I tend to be unforgiving to places I am until they become places I’ve been. The past has a way of making sense in the future and both good and bad experiences have shaped you.
And so these places continue to exist without you around. As they say, you don’t know where you’re going until you understand where you’ve been. I guess ‘they’ are right.