My entire week built up to this moment: packed bags and a heart ready for a vacation, even this very small vacation granted to us.
“At the risk of sounding too offensive, this place is a shit-hole.”
The sentence left my lips before I even realized its consequences—my friend was not ready for my bold statement. I could have prepared her better, I suppose, but she was the one who questioned my need to go back home. Unfortunately, what I said is the truth–this town’s worth only stretches so far. I needed home more than ever after having said my piece, if not for time away from an unruly campus, I needed it as an escape from this awkward situation we both created out of a relatively innocent conversation.
I was home three hours later. Home, in my town, where the air is crisper. My hometown, placed nearly half-an-hour from Atlanta, has everything I could ever need, but more importantly, my home is my stable ground. The people here are well-acquainted with the to-dos and courtesies of a bigger city. We were a small town once, and even then we were more Mayberry than three hours south. Despite the convenience of a university campus lying in the middle of the small town, the ignorance there is in abundance—hardly a line is drawn between “hick” and “southerner.”
I have always lived by the rule that happiness can be found anywhere. I have found the people who contribute to my happiness, but the town, overall, is not a pleasant place to live. Happiness, quite simply, is more attainable at home.
“Well, it is your hometown, I’d expect you to like it more,” my friend said, attempting to sound understanding.
If only falling in love with a town was as easy as she assumes.
“This isn’t egocentrism. If I could choose anywhere to live, I wouldn’t even choose this state!”
She would not believe me, but for four days I was far enough away not to care. What I said was my truth, and she is more than willing to live her life loving a town I hate. Only having lived in this town, she will never understand what I mean when I say one has to live somewhere to truly understand the people and the place. Visiting is not enough.
The first person I saw while home was my best friend Melody, and while swapping stories of our motivation to be home, we found common ground.
“There’s something about this place–I don’t know what, I can’t explain it–but it makes me feel calmer and happier,” I said.
“I understand what you mean. I feel the exact same way whenever I come home,” Melody said–finally someone who understands.
I wanted nothing more than to take snapshots of everything while driving through town–document the town’s beauty, the people laughing. And in between the laughter and familiarity, I spent my time staring at the hands on the clock, wishing I could make them tick slower. If only I were a Roald Dahl character.
Coming back was a struggle; I knew exactly what was waiting for me at the end of the trip–familiarity is refreshing, routine is monotonous. Without a few friends and my beloved, I would have no reason to return at all. Georgia has colleges in at least every other town, but in some weird way, in this miserable town in which I setup camp, I found the same comfort one can find in a home. I put my bags down on the floor and looked around the empty dorm room. Some part of me, through all of the complaints and eagerness to be home, missed it.
This place may not be perfect, but it is a home away from home. I suppose that is why my friend was offended by my confession—I did not pause to remind her she keeps me grounded, as well.
Now, if we could just do something about this humidity.