While our adventure (click here to start from the beginning) was filled with endless unknown cities and situations, it was the return home that perplexed me most. Returning home was, in a weird way, an anxiously anticipated mystery. It was the move I felt the least sure about, flooded with mixed emotions...
The truth is, before I ever started this blog I already knew that Rock Hill would be the last city on our list. Not that it needed to be — we had spent time in more than 30 cities along the way and could easily have kept going — but it was a conscious decision to end the story here. (That's called foreshadowing.)
Before we left home, the trip began to spark a lot of new / not new conversations with friends and clients and colleagues relating to life choices. We talked about our choice to live without children, without religion and without family*.
We did not make these choices lightly. I'd argue that we talked more about the consequences of not having children than most people do about having them. And I can say that we've questioned our decision not to embrace organized religion with more honesty than most ever bring to a faith they likely inherited. Not to mention that, after every goodbye, I grapple with the sadness of leaving behind generations of my close-knit family.
But, while all these things have provided a struggle, I dare say the choice to return "home" — again and again — is always the most difficult for us.
Perhaps we are spoiled and juvenile, still entertaining romantic fantasies of the vagabonding runaway. Or perhaps we are making some misguided political statement, conflicted by our own materialistic lifestyle. Whatever the reason, we are continually compelled to grasp for some semblance of freedom. Is it vanity? A rage against aging? An instinctual urge to outpace death?
Speaking without metaphor, I am afraid to return home because I am afraid that we won't be able to convince ourselves to stay. Each time, I fear the exhilaration of adventure and novelty will conquer the doldrums of daily life once and for all. After all, choosing to return home means choosing to return to a choice we made once upon a time, when we were barely adults. A choice that affects so many other things — the type of work we'll do (or not do), the kind of art we'll create (or not create), the culture that we have access to (or lack), the potential friends we'll make (or won't make)...
Returning home is returning to the normal, so-called life we've created with all its failures and shortcomings and boring limitations. It's returning to rungs on the career ladder by which we measure growth, the human mirrors in which we see our true reflections and the unavoidable reality that This. Is. It.
We are the sum of what we choose to need and what we choose to go without.
But, just as leaving, returning is also a choice. And like all choices, it defines us.
I am drawn to Zan because we share a natural proclivity to question convention before accepting it. We are equally disinterested in what we are supposed to do, being part of a thoughtless tribe or measuring success against our neighbors.
It can be a challenge, especially when it doesn't support the choices of those around us, but our ability to own our choices is an essential part of who we are. To never stay or settle, even when we are tired or uncertain or scared. To work hard when no one is looking, to always maintain the myth and to leave things better than we found them. To admit when we've chosen the wrong path and, more importantly, to stay motivated enough to demand a new course.
I've learned that my ability to follow through on commitments makes my freedom sweeter and the promises I keep add seduction to spontaneity. As long as I know that I am free to go and return of my own volition, I will never be trapped.
Despite our trepidation, we re-entered Rock Hill's atmosphere without consequence, pomp or circumstance. On our first night back we turned on the TV and ordered takeout for the first time in 30 days. We washed clothes in our own laundry room and laid / lay / lied our heads on our not-too-hard-not-too-soft pillows. We woke, our first morning, to a quick breakfast and an overflowing work week.
As a final nod to our fleeting freedom, Zan wanted to call this last post "There and Back Again" (you're welcome nerds.) He liked that it touched on the universal themes of adventure, personal growth, epic bravery and home. After tossing it around a bit in my head, I grew to like how it represented our most basic journey, the one we travel everyday.
It's one thing to choose to go "there" but it's all together another to come "back again."
* Well, make that 800 miles away from my big, crazy Italian family.