Home for the Holidays

I’m going to get real with y’all for a minute here. I’m a huge sucker for quotes, no surprise there I’m sure. I’ve always kept meaningful or inspirational ones in a notebook and used them to sign off a letter to a friend. I’ve even just recently started underlining and highlighting them in books as well. But there’s one in particular that’s been resonating with me for the past 24 hours and I can’t quite remember where it’s from, (book? movie?):

“No one is as mysterious as they think.”

Or is it: “Everyone is a lot less mysterious than they think.”

As I’m typing this I remember—it’s from “Elizabethtown,” my favorite movie of all time. Of course.

Anyway. “Everyone is a lot less mysterious than they think.”It’s so goddamn true. Let me back up.

I moved out of my parents’ house four years ago. First to Oswego, then to Liverpool, and then to Brooklyn. Coming back to Syracuse has never felt nostalgic, even from hundreds of miles away. There’s never been a moment where I’ve felt like I wanted to move back or one that I second guessed my decision to leave. Coming back always felt…off; like I was looking into this world that I was never really a part of, or at least one that I haven’t felt like I’ve fit into for the past few years. Of course I missed my family and friends, but they would always be there to come back and visit and stayed just a phone call away.

Small town conservative living is just not for me. I realized this at a very young age and have since spent the last few years running as fast as I possibly could toward anything that would make me feel comfortable in my own skin, in my own surroundings. And the whole time I thought I was being viewed as this outcast, this crazy young millennial that has no idea what she wants in life. Why can’t she just be like the rest and settle down and use that degree at the dying Post Standard?

You spend your teenage years being angsty as can be, dreaming of nothing more than moving away, “following your dreams,” starting over, completely redefining yourself. But first, you spend your young adult years figuring out exactly what those “dreams” are, and who you were to begin with so you can start to rebuild yourself in this new light you so desperately seem to think you need to be bathed in. You’re going to convince yourself that absolutely no one understands you, that your parents are out to get you, and that your college degree was all for naught.

The truth? All of that is just going to build you into that much of a stronger version of the individual that you were always on the road to becoming. And I know it’s cliché as hell, especially coming from some 24-year-old punk that is so far from having it all together. Or even half of it together for that matter. But sometimes even 24-year-old punks have moments of clarity.

That journalism degree is going to show you just how much you’re NOT interested in hard news, but the creative writing courses you had to take to obtain it will make you that much of a better editor for your friend’s first novel. Two years later you’ll surprise yourself with the number of obscure authors you read and your literary world will begin to open up and take you down paths that feel so natural. These authors won’t be that obscure to the people you start to surround yourself with–they’re reading them too. Your big city life is going to be something your friends and family will love to come down and partake in, in small doses. Your romantic life that was always so taboo will be something that can be brought up (carefully), and the people that matter will realize your new-found happiness and confidence and will be happy for you. While all this is great, you’ll still worry about how different you look in everyone’s eyes back “home.”

Then one Christmas you’re going to come back, and it’s going to slap you in the face just how much you actually are on the right track and how much those around you see exactly who that it is. Your grandmother is going to get you a copy of “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” and tell you about the time she read it in the fourth grade and just knew it was the perfect gift for you. Your uncle is going to tell you that the cell phone he keeps in the front pocket of his Carhartt overalls shows all the pictures and everything you post from New York City, and that while photography is your brother’s special thing, you want to be a writer –“no, you are a writer”—and that’s what makes you special. “That’s your thing,” he’ll say. Your godfather and you will bond over soccer, he a Sounder’s fan, you more of a Women’s National Team fan, but the bonding is there. He’ll tell you about how he might go to a game in the city and he’ll let you know when so maybe you can go along. You’ll play Scrabble and Jenga at your parent’s kitchen table, talking about how you want more out of life and are thinking of going back to school for a degree in library science while your mother tells you how she knows all about your “little friend” down in Virginia.

At the end of it all, you’ll be writing all of this on your old desktop from high school, with the corresponding era’s iTunes going in the background in the bedroom you thought showed no recollection that you inhabited it for 20 years of your life. But then you’ll take a minute to look around, and you’ll slowly realize: You. Are. Everywhere. The books on the bedside table: Virginia Woolf, Jhumpa Lahiri, Emily Bronte. The Conde Nast Travel magazine on the other side. The essence of the sea in the décor. Candles. Empty wine bottles. Cheesy inspirational quotes: “Dream Big,” “Help Each Other,” and “Know You Are Loved.”

You are exactly where you were meant to be. “Everyone is a lot less mysterious than they think.”