A year ago, I wrote a submission for the Fall 2022 issue of This Girls Story that captured my painfully honest feelings about home back then, and still captures my painfully honest feelings about home now. Titled Downpour on South 1st Street, it was a creative essay about the difficult love and connection I felt for my hometown of Austin, Texas. As I freely admitted in the piece, I didn’t care for living there nearly as much as I do now, and it wasn’t until recent years that I really considered myself an Austinite and Texan. I’d felt a keen disconnect from the world around me for as long as I could remember, but thanks to the realization of how much of my life relied on the city’s policies and efforts, I had a newfound interest in its events, politics, and general well-being. As the fact that I loved living there rapidly set in, the more I wanted to bear my heart to it, and the near-million people that make up its population today.
I think I subconsciously knew that I wouldn’t have long to continue confessing infatuation for the only place I could remember living in. By the time I’d written the piece, I had also made a draft of my main essay for college applications, and had already decided on the several that I’d be applying to. None of them were in Austin, nor the greater state of Texas. It’s a sour irony to me now, knowing that for all I loved my home, I wasn’t willing to stay in it to continue my education. I felt like I couldn’t stay, for all that it’d given me this great comfort and feeling of belonging. During the college process, I remained insistent that I needed to get away from Texas, needed to be away from home, just to give myself a solid reality check and figure out what I truly wanted for my life- without any nostalgic influence.
The months and minutes ticked by, and as all supposedly-grand life events do, my college move-in felt anticlimactic and surreal. The whole trip to Iowa, where my college lay, was spent flipping between sheer panic at the thought of leaving Texas, and numbly watching the highway road. When we finally reached the residence hall and settled in, all I could think about was how it was cooler than back home. Quieter than back home. Smaller than back home.
Never like back home.
I regret that I didn’t whisper another ‘I love you’ to my parents as they drove off and left me on the steps of my residence hall. I regret that I didn’t knock on my siblings’ doors to wake them up the previous early morning, before I took my eyes off of our childhood house for the last time for the next few months. But a regret I’m terrified of admitting alongside those stems from the very stubbornness that set me on this path in the first place. For I reminisce on not just the lack of immediate family around me, but the lack of home. The lack of Austin, and of Texas.
I’ve spent more tears and tissues on that fierce grief for home than I care to count, just in these past few weeks. Because despite all the frustration, Texas is my home- more than Iowa will ever be. And as natural as I know it is to feel nervous and alone in such a new environment, part of me keeps wondering if it really would have been better to stay in-state for college after all. If it was worth it to try and prove myself mature and adult-like to my parents, by biting off more than I could chew. If it was worth it to go to a school with apparently one of the best writing programs, just to pour all that learning into mourning words over something I chose to lose. Because, even if I couldn’t see it back then, I did choose to lose this. I chose to lose a chance at maintaining the connection and closeness to my home, because I pushed myself to care solely about my academic interests, thinking that could be my new home. But no home ever truly replaces the one before it.
Home’s not truly lost, of course. I know my home is still right down there, no matter the miles away, ready for me whenever I get back. Yet knowing that doesn’t stop the recurring hurt that opens up so easily, when any aspect of my new life here can remind me of home. It doesn’t stop the bottomless well of love and longing that’s been filling up so steadily my whole life, only now flooding over when there’s no fresh supply. I know I belong in Austin, and will still belong in Austin, once my four years in Iowa are up and I can take that final trip back to Texas. I know my essence has sunk into the city, and has stayed.
It’s just a matter of braving this downpour, until the skies clear again.