Home Sweet…Is It Time To Leave Yet?
The saying goes that home is where the heart is. Well, what if throughout the years your heart turned colder than the twig and berries of the Abominable Snowman? No, I’m not saying that I’m this stone-cold b****. I’m just stating—in my weird fashion—that what if my heart was not where my home was? What if the place where I lived majority of my life; where I have majority of my family and friends was not the place I belonged?
Originally, I am from Atlanta, Georgia. For many of you who are not from there, you love to refer to as “Hotlanta” or “A-town”. Every time I hear someone call it that, it makes my butt itch. Ugh. Anyways, I guess people can label me a “southern girl” that substitutes her “e” and “r” with an “a”. Some find the southern twang adorable, while others consider it to be the murdering of the English language (dramatic much?). I grew up with hot and humid summers, lightening bugs, sweet, sweet tea, and using the slang “finna” when stating what I was about to do. Every weekend, my former friend, Ashley (screw her!) and I would catch the MARTA to downtown, walking around Five Points in hopes of getting numbers from guys. Typical teenage girl stuff, really. But eventually, I felt stagnant and Atlanta began to bore me. I wanted something new. I needed it!
As many of you may know from my constant mentioning of it that I was in the Navy (HOOYAH). Because of my enlistment and doing well on my test in A school, I was awarded my first duty station in California. It was hard to pinpoint whether I was nervous or excited; therefore, I am going to create my own word for the situation—Nercited! California was untouched territory for me because I have never been. Sure, there was that time my parents said that all three of us would visit San Francisco to visit my uncle; however, they ended up going by themselves, leaving me under the care of my older siblings (THANKS MOM AND DAD!). In my mind, I pictured surfers and a Starbucks on every corner; that all the people where like the cast of Clueless and they used the word “like” as a comma. All I could think of was beaches and palm trees, and getting pictures of celebrities doing stuff to post on Facebook and make all of my friends jealous. That was the life right there!
Of course moving to a new city has its adjustments. It took me a while to realize that when you order a sweet tea, do not expect there to be sugar in it. What the heck, man? I want my sweet tea diabetic, and I want it now! Traffic was not much of an adjustment for Atlanta has similar problems (except the 405! That is just freaking torture!). Oh, and the weather! The weather was perfect. Not too hot; not too cold. I felt like Goldilocks. Another plus, was that I know Spanish. I think it should be a requirement. Gradually, California was growing on me. It made the decision to say even after getting out of the Navy much easier. I didn’t want to come back to Georgia. Other than my family and bestie, Stephani, there was nothing for me there. California sunk its hooks into me and would not let go (that beautiful manipulative b****). And I know what people are going to say—California is expensive. That is correct, but hey, people still live here.
While I was in the Navy, I would make a trip back to Atlanta every summer or whenever I had enough leave time. However, after I separated from the Navy, I took a three-year hiatus. Every summer, my dad would fly in to take my daughter back to Atlanta for the summer so that she could spend time her dad and see her cousins whom she misses so much (yet can’t stop arguing with). My summers were spent working and going to school. Stephani would tell me how of a sorry friend and godmother I was for abandoning her and her kids, but what is a girl supposed to do when she has priorities? What, I say?! I made it my duty to try every summer or free time to fly out there, but something always came up. I could of came last year, but I fell pregnant and was either too big or that it was highly recommended that I don’t fly at eight and a half months. Now that my son arrived, my family was even more anxious for me to come visit. To be honest, they couldn’t care less if I came to visit as long as that baby came (my father’s words). But I wanted to see my family. I had a niece and nephew that I haven’t seen since they were infants, and were now little troublemakers wreaking havoc and chaos upon their parents. They were precious angels.
The summer 2016 was approaching and I was contemplating if I would come or not due to the fact that I started a new job, and it was highly unlikely I would get vacation time so soon. Atlanta seemed to be off my list of summer plans.
Or was it?
It was not. I managed to work things out, explaining to my boss that there was no one to take my daughter there because she was using a buddy pass and my sister bought regular plane tickets for her and her daughter. Easy. Only problem—I was going to have to travel with a baby. Dun, dun, DUN! I never travelled with an infant before. I mean, I have seen people do it and they always seemed to have it together; however, I usually don’t have things together so this would be something. How right I was! For some strange reason, I was talked out of bringing a stroller by my sister (I will get you back for that, Iya). That left me carrying a baby, a baby bag, and a carry-on bag with my laptop and composition book, while trying to keep my daughter in line. My back nearly gave out and at times I felt like passing out in the middle of LAX in hopes that someone would take pity on me and carry me to my gate. It didn’t happen like that. When I wasn’t going back and forth with the help desk to fix my boarding pass to state “infant in arms”, I was held up at TSA because of my son’s bottles that were filled with formula and baby food. Apparently, the formula failed a test. Maybe it could be because it was taking so freaking long that it was spoiling! I wasn’t feeding my baby cocaine, people! Either way, I missed my flight and had to catch another. I was tired and both of my kids were asleep. The struggle was indeed real!
We finally arrived in Atlanta and immediately after walking off the plane, the heat and humidity hit me with the vengeance. Like idiots, my daughter and I had long sleeved shirts on because it was a bit chili in California when we left. REGRETS! Walking outside, the sun caused my whining baby to fall silent. He was literally at a loss of whine. That’s how hot it was. Finally, my parents picked us up and saved us from melting. The first place I wanted to go was Zaxby’s (a better version of Chik fi la). Driving down the highway, I noticed how much things changed. Whether it was subtle or not, I noticed it. The neighborhood I grew up in did not feel the same. It was now filled with neighbors I never saw before. Trees were literally overgrowing and slowly devouring people’s houses. Even walking into my mother’s house felt different. This was a house I lived in as a small child and now I barely recognized it. What the hell? I know the song says, “what a difference a day makes”, so imagine what a difference 1,095 days make.
A lot! It makes a lot of difference!
Even going to one of my favorite malls to watch a movie did not feel normal. The bookstore I loved going to was now a Forever 21. Do we really need more clothing stores? Do people even read anymore? Apparently not, sadly. There was barely an adult in sight. The mall was overrun with teenagers (Ugh. Vile creatures). I felt like the title of a Drake CD in that nothing was the same. Another sister of mine lived near my high school that I didn’t even recognize anymore. They were building a new this and a new that, and the entire time, I’m trying to figure out why they could not do that while I was in high school. Trust me when I say that it would have made my high school experience more enjoyable. And what is with all these condos and expensive apartments downtown? I swear, for a second I thought was driving through Manhattan or Brooklyn for a second. Wow, Atlanta, you are getting kind of uppity. You used to be cool. Damn you, Gentrification!
I felt like foreigner in a strange land. I had to use my GPS to find a mall I traveled to too many times to count. While heading to the bowling alley, I had to ask my friend where we were. Where we were, people! What was going on with me? Atlanta was my hometown. I used to know this city like the back of my hand. Like a person who sassed me knew the back of my hand. While catching up with my friend, Ben, he brought it to my attention that I talked like a Californian. You hush your filthy Pittsburgh mouth, Ben! However, after actually listening to myself, I did! The little southern drawl that I had was gone and I now sounded like Dionne from Clueless. Who was I? Who have I become? Pretty soon, when people asked me where I was from, I would say Hotlanta (GASP).
Something felt off. Too much stuff had changed, and though I adapt well to change, this was the type I was not prepared for. Other than nearly passing out every time I stepped out of the house, I did not feel as though I was home. Like, home home. Could it be that California spoiled me? Heck yes. In California, I wasn’t being eaten alive my mosquitoes, and because my blood was drenched with the sweet taste of Cali, they were going to devour me. It LITERALLY felt as though I was just visiting family. The entire time, all I could think about was going home and suffering through 101 traffic rather than suffering through I-285 traffic (it has gotten so bad over the years. What the heck, Georgia?). I wanted to see palm trees. I wanted if it was hot in the day for it to be cool at night, not for it to be 90 degrees all damn day!
However, as the day drew near for me to leave, I did have this feeling deep down that I wanted to stay a bit longer. The more and more I spent with my parents, the more I realized how much I missed seeing them every day, compared to phone calls, Facetime, and visits once a year. After going over to my bestie’s house, I saw how much spending time with her meant to me; going out and talking about our lives, while becoming nostalgic about our pre-baby bodies (I miss you so damn much, seventeen-year-old body). Then there was the fact that I wouldn’t be there to watch my younger nieces and nephew grow up like I did with the older ones. Also, how my son wouldn’t be able to grow up with them and become close like my daughter did with her cousins. I would have to wait until he was at least five or six before I allowed him to stay for the summer. He is already a strange little cutie when it comes to everyone but me, so imagine him four years from now.
The day arrived and it was time for the boy and I to head back to sunny California (my daughter was to stay for the summer). After receiving my boarding pass, my mother gave me a hug that I really dreaded had to end. There was no way I could really pinpoint how I felt about leaving. On one hand, I wanted to spend time with my family. On the other, all my stuff and attachment was on the west coast. Was I making the right decision by staying there? I pondered that question for the entire four hours of the trip while watching Zootopia and Hail, Caesar (great movies, by the way). Once we arrived back at LAX and I walked out to catch my shuttle bus, I did not feel any regrets for leaving.
This is not say that I do not miss my family because I do dearly, but at this point in my life, I am not ready to go back to Georgia. For the past few months, I was on the fence on whether I should move back or not, and this visit told me that I was not ready yet. I still feel as though there is more for me to do out here. I was sent here for a reason and until I fulfill that reason, California will be my home for now…or forever. Who knows? I’m sure this disappoints my parents—especially my mom- but I have to do what makes me happy, and moving back to Atlanta is not what makes me happy. My aspiration is to become a well-established writer and being here gives me the opportunity to make that come true. Though my mind is telling me that California is where I need to be, my heart will always be with my family, no matter the thousands of miles, time zone change, or the way people annunciate their words. Home is wherever you make it….
….and hopefully my home will be with Idris Elba one day.