Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Leaving Home: Volume II

When I first left home for Ann Arbor during the autumn of '06, it felt like a biological imperative. I was young. Eighteen years old and stubborn. Wild and rebellious. In my eyes then my parents were not people with stories like the rest of us - their own flaws and daily dramas - but authoritarians I was at a crossroads with. The troublemaker of the family, I was ever getting grounded, banned from sleepovers, and given stern warnings after increasingly erratic behavior. I came home drunk not infrequently, the cops called home one night after they caught me and a couple other high school guys toking it up in the Levagood parking lot, and I had acquired somewhat of a bad boy reputation amongst the uptight Bible-thumping moms of my Catholic school community. Yet I maintained a stellar academic resume and was very active in sports and extracurricular activities - baffling those Bible-thumpers when I, for all intents and purposes, out-achieved their own flawless teens - which perplexed my parents enough that they couldn't keep me in trouble for very long.

I had one foot out the door of Westland as soon as that letter from the University of Michigan came in the mail. From my perspective my Catholic school community and the town I lived in was a dead-end lot, a perpetual prison of monotony and tedium for Simple-Simons and those who let life pass them by during the nine-to-five day. I wanted no part of their lifestyles or their low-ceiling ambitions, convinced I would surpass them all. I clung to my Dylan and Springsteen records pretentiously, convinced by their lyrics that I had to get out of Dodge lest I be sucked into its clutches before it was too late.

From the vantage of retrospect, I can see now what I was: a naive, somewhat arrogant, and rather sheltered product of suburbia in desperate need of sowing my wild oats. I hadn't the vaguest notion of the world I was living in, what it could do with you, the pain it could inflict.

I returned home a five and a half years later a shell of the man I was when I first left home. Like a Vietnam veteran who departs America a baby-faced kid and returns nine months later grizzled by war with scars that penetrate much deeper than skin, I had returned home with my tail between my legs, jaded and broken by Life out there in the world. Returning home, I thought that if I could just stay awhile in the house of my childhood memories that some of the brokenness inside me would heal.

I had never intended to return home, nor did I particularly want to, but in the end it was the biological imperative that leaving home for the first time those years ago was. The past two years at home proved critical to emotional healing and taking stock of my life. I rebuilt my life from the ruins of trauma and lay the stepping stones of my sobriety upon my childhood home's sturdy foundation. Without home, I don't know if I would have survived. About a month prior to making the ultimate decision to desert my apartment in Ann Arbor and return home I had driven across the state to Lake Michigan with a bottle of whiskey and a bottle of pills thinking about swallowing everything and jumping into the frigid waters - it was the lowest point of my life.

Two years and some odd months later, I'm leaving home again. My childhood buddies and I are moving into a nice little house in Garden City a few miles down the road. While living at home has long tormented me - the thought of my college roommates making their way in various cityscapes across the country while I remain in the limbo of living with my parents is psychologically demoralizing at times - leaving home this time feels much different than it did at eighteen. It was with skepticism and reluctance that I finally made the decision to leave home, knowing that it jeopardizes my sobriety and puts me at risk of falling back into my old habits; certainly there was no pressing necessity of soul to move out as their was post-high school. In fact I had grown quite comfortable living back at home, a prospect that ultimately influenced my decision to leave because I know how terrifying a thought that is to the eighteen year old version of me. Leaving home this time feels less like a mitzfah than something that simply that had come to pass.

I leave home this time wiser, more cautious, experienced in pain and life and love, nearly - gasp - a half year of sobriety under my belt. Responsibility is in my vocabulary now, even at the forefront, and settling down is what I am seeking rather than fleeing this time around. I have two jobs and bills to pay, which is okay in my book, and don't think it's in my wherewithal to storm right out of a job because I was better than it, as I did the month before leaving for college. Perhaps most tellingly, Dylan and Springsteen's middle-aged albums resonate with me more so than their debut albums nowadays, Born to Run seeming a distant chapter in my life. I'll still eat frozen pizzas on a regular basis, but I might mix in some vegetable dinners in there too.

If nothing else it's a new chapter, a chance to begin a new on a fresh canvas. And that's what I've been seeking for a long time now. I have no preconceptions that the road will be without heartache as I pack my suitcase this time around, but I know there are new memories to make out there in the world, too. So here's to blank pages.

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