Making my Peace

Alanna, Sammy, and I have been in Massachusetts since June. When people ask how the trip has been, I’m not sure how to reply. It’s been a rollercoaster. Lots of ups, its share of downs. Now, with just a few days left in Massachusetts, I find myself reflecting back and putting it all together.

This is the longest I’ve stayed in Massachusetts since moving to California at 23. I’ve visited a number of times, but never for this long. As you may have read in an earlier post, this trip has forced me to go back to the basics. A lot of old wounds, that I thought had healed up long ago, re-opened. And without the same support system and tools I have available at home in California, I’ve had to adapt and figure it out.

Not only is this the first time I haven’t had “my own place” since being an adult, but I’m revisiting a lot of things that I thought I left behind. I’ve been back in my childhood home. That in itself carries a lot of weight. I drive by places that bring back memories. Some good. Some not so good. Some days it seems that I everywhere I turn, I’m confronted with the memory of a friend that has passed away, or a traumatic time in my life. But there’s a lot of good, too. And for years, I’ve felt guilty about appreciating that good.

Driving past Southwick High School in early Fall reminds me of how much I hated school. But just up the road, I can stop at Provin Mountain, and hike along Metacomet Ridge to one of my favorite spots.

Driving through Westfield, past our first apartment, I’m reminded of the time we got jumped, beat up, and harassed by cops on the street corner. I’m trying to let go of that, and instead remember the times I rode my bike along the old NYNH&H rail line in Westfield.

Driving through Springfield, I pass by neighborhood where I played basketball, hopped fences, and learned important skills, like how to roll a blunt. But instead of scaling fire escapes, I found myself visiting several of the museums and historical places. Turns out, Springfield has a deep and rich history… Who would’ve thought?

I found myself trackside with friends. I took several trips down Memory Lane. We swam. A lot. And we explored places that I never visited when I lived here. We checked off the “leaf peeper” badge with a visit to The Berkshires. We went up to Vermont. A few times. And I’ve started to appreciate the beauty that’s been right down the road from my parents’ house.

I had deep conversations with both of my parents, that were probably years overdue. Looking back, I was still a kid when I left. With 3000 miles between myself and my parents, our relationship never fully matured. But I feel I’ve got that now, and I’m glad.

I wrote letters to my some of my friends that have passed away. It was surprisingly therapeutic. It’s helped me let go of the fact that they are no longer here, and instead of focusing only on the bad, I can remember the good times we had together. It still hurts, and that will never go away completely. But I’m letting go of some of that guilt, that has stuck with me for well over a decade in some cases.

For years, I’ve felt guilty about enjoying and appreciating the good things that my childhood home has. Perhaps it’s a bit of survivors guilt. It’s been hard to see through the negative and focus on the positive. But I’m getting to a point of appreciation. And I’m getting closure on things, so I can finally fully embrace who I am and where I’m from.

So… while it’s been hard to be here at times, it’s been really nice, too. I’m going to miss eating pizza in Pine Hill Cemetery with Alanna. I’m going to miss walking around Stanley Park with Sammy. I’m even going to miss the shitty dive bars. But it’s all only a plane ticket away, and we’ll visit again soon.

On the other side of that, I’m excited for what’s next. For starters, I’m excited to see my doctor and my therapist, to see if I can get my sleep and anxiety back under control. But more than that, I’m excited to look for our next place to live back in California. While 18 year old Ryan could sleep on couches and floors, 30 year old Ryan needs some stability. And a couch. And WiFi. And Netflix.

So yeah, it’s been a good trip.


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