Going home for Christmas from university jarred me in a way I never anticipated, and made me aware of a bizarrely ignorant quality I seem to possess. I didn’t ever expect to view my home as something even vaguely alien to me, but somehow it has happened and I am intrigued as to whether anyone else feels similar.
I was so ready to get home. Home was calm, comfortable, familiar, free of responsibility and everything was free. The first term of university had been intense and it was towards the end, whilst I was crying at the RSPCA adoption page of a dog called Tia, that I realised how excited to leave my stuffy, stagnant uni room I was. Being so far away geographically from my family had led me to separate the two locations into two different lives; two different roles I played. Cardiff was where school, my new friends, my job, my matching yellow crockery was. My active life that I worked and progressed in. Nottingham was where my family, my old friends, my bed, my dogs, my finished artwork was. The life I felt I had almost completed, that remained eternally recognisable. At this point I was unaware of just how detached my rationality was from this mindset. That changed as of about 2 hours into being back at home.
I was surprised that this place still seemed to work and exist whilst I was elsewhere. I was surprised at the presence of new bread in the bread basket, at unfamiliar post and objects on the kitchen table, at a fridge full of new and old ingredients. So much seemed the same, just as I had left it and yet tiny portions within were different. It was in purgatory in my mind, caught between a new place I must adjust to and an old place I sink back into. This place and these people were dormant to me, like a series of windows open on a screen that is switched off. I had expected to switch the screen back on and pick up from exactly where I had left, the elements within having remained still and silent due to my absence. But I had switched the screen back on to find things moving, working, advancing whilst I had been away. Everything’s as it was but simply active – my presence no longer seemingly integral to their existence. It felt oddly offensive; my immediate, thoughtless, knee-jerk style response towards the situation was one of hurt and surprise. But then as the reflexive emotion cleared I realised how ridiculous that was.
My parents and sister and cousins and grandparents and auntie and uncle have their ‘active’ lives here. How could I possibly have entertained the idea that they would somehow stop due to my absence? The phrase ‘the world doesn’t revolve around you’ sprang to mind. How could I be so silly? So explicitly self-obsessed? So devoid of rationale and consideration and reality? It’s laughable now, but at the time the sensations were so real. Reading it back it still resonates as loosely true, and I feel there will always be a part of me that feels that same initial shock whenever I go back home. That sadness in the knowledge that the people you love are capable of life and happiness without you.