Flying out tomorrow to Massachusetts. Have most of my stuff packed. Am looking forward to a nice visit with family for Christmas. It’s always weird “going back.” There’s all the questions it raises — the question of belonging, as in where do I belong, where would I be happiest. There’s the question of me — who am I? Texan or Massachusetts guy? This open question thing has been there awhile. Before Texas and the doctorate and teaching and research, it was Iraq and Germany and the Army and deployments. What is home? Before that it was switching towns, switching schools, new this, new that.
The answer I settle on is it’s all water flowing in the river. There is nowhere to “go back” to, because that place is gone. The longer I live the more I believe that. And it isn’t just “out there” that is changing, it’s also inside. I’m not the same, and couldn’t have stayed so if I tried. Can’t even remember that much, sort of like a comet with pieces flying off the main body and drifting out into empty untraceable space. Just have a few things that come to mind if I try to remember.
What do I remember? I guess usually the same few things, with the occasional recent addition. Sort of a candidacy period with a new memory. See how it hangs. Anyway, the standard memories are shameful things for the most part, sort of a moral to-do list, though for most of them there isn’t any obvious thing I can do to fix. So they linger there. Some of them will be reinvigorated, more up-close-and-personal, being back in Massachusetts for a bit. One thing that draws me back more than anything is a hopeful curiosity that something in these visits will change or transform these lingering memories into something different, less dead-end. Probably won’t even notice for some time if that ever does happen. Hard to separate it all out. Lots of moving parts, when a part of your perspective is altered, and something that used to bother you doesn’t as much anymore.
On a brighter note, going back is an in-between-chapters-of-real-life sort of experience. In that sense, it’s a sort of freedom, similar to Schiller’s idea of play being a sort of freedom. It’s when everything becomes less determinant, less logical and serious. The flow of “the river” slows down, and you’re suddenly just floating there, a comet coming to rest. Disorientated. Out of place. But also free in a way. Real yet still, simply, coming into being.