We’re doing our best to deny it.

In works of art, the creator, author or composer is simply doing one thing: imitating life through their own control. Where other areas in life may lack, creating your own story, your own piece, is much like playing God; the fate, the power and the fluidity of your characters and your universe lie solely in your hands. Anything goes by the will of your fingertips, your pen, or your tongue. Really, it’s something special.

But, it’s because of this the infamous, “Life isn’t like the movies,” came to fruition. The obvious lies both within the context and without, because everyone knows that while a story may be based around reality – it isn’t reality. By no means does that make “it” bad, in fact I think it spurs more creativity, passion and emotion than without it, but it also begins to paint a picture that most likely doesn’t exist the way you want it to.

Before I moved away, I remember accidentally finding an article about a guy who moved to Australia for a year. He detailed his initial culture shock and how weird it was to be in a world away from his own, but he also detailed the surreal return home. In essence, his first few hours back in America were so profoundly far from what he remembered just a year prior that that in itself was another culture shock.

It’s funny how that works. You can spend your entire life in one place only to be reset to square one without a real warning. And as I’ve said so many times before, I love that feeling and that drive — but that’s not what I’m talking about this time.

It’s become a bit of a running joke with myself how I plan trips. I don’t know how, when or why it started, but I pick the month I’m free, I close my eyes, and I put my finger on a random date. As long as it doesn’t conflict with my schedule, I go, “OK, cool!” and plan around that.

For example,

  • My first-ever flight to St. Louis (October 14, 2012).
  • My moving date in 2013 (June 18).
  • My move back to Texas (June 18, 2014), and my move back to Missouri (March 20, 2015).

(I don’t get it either, but it works.)

Each of the times I came back to visit in 2013, 2014 and 2015, I expected three things: Whataburger, my cats and my home. As unpredictable as life is and can be, these were the three things I always knew would be there no matter what. Regardless of how much Amarillo continues to grow (and how often I go, “What is that?“), and regardless of how great it is to see my friends, seeing what was familiar to me is my own desert mirage. (In the best way!) Each time I’ve visited after moving comes during some of the most high-stress times in my life, and it goes without saying I thoroughly enjoy my time back home.

One of my favorite sayings in life is, “All good things come to an end.” To me, it’s a tangible definition of how two-faced life as a whole can be. I apply the quote to relationships, jobs, friends – even abandoned buildings – but I’ve also had to apply it to my hometown as of recently.

The hardest part about saying goodbye to my parents, again, in 2013, 2014 and 2015 was also saying goodbye to my two cats. Freckles, the oldest, was already 13 when I moved out, and Rugby was 11. I would always have this lingering thought of, “What if this the last time you see them?” I hated it, but I knew my love for them, so I’d take pictures with them before I left as a “just in case”.

For three straight years, I fret more than I probably should have when I left the house to go back to the airport, but I knew one day it wouldn’t just be a concern, but it’d be reality.

There’s a part of me that stabs like a knife knowing the last time I ever saw Freckles alive was this past January. He was 16, and he lived a great life, but I can’t deny he is dead. My first-ever pet, my favorite pet, my Freckle Bear — he’s dead. My mom called me and told me the news early last month and I had to pull over the car for my own safety and sanity. You know that trope in movies and TV where a character hears surreal news and the only thing they hear is white noise? That was basically me. I think I was so shocked that I couldn’t even attempt to cry, but the first thing I thought was how, just they day before, I told myself, “I haven’t had any reason to cry in months.”

I came home and immediately went to bed and cried for probably thirty minutes. I kept looking back at all the recent pictures my mom had sent me, but I gave extra attention to the last pictures I personally took of him. It killed me inside, and it still kind of does. I have no doubt in my mind that his passing will not fully hit me until I come back home later this month to a Freckles-less house.

I’m not ready for that just yet.

Aside from a Freckles-less house, I’m also going to be in a house I don’t even recognize. You see, my mom recently got re-married. Words cannot express how happy I am for her; this year is the first year since 2007 (when my parents divorced) where I’ve seen her genuinely happy. All of the worries she had even six months ago don’t exist anymore, and the result is a very, very happy mom who is very, very happy with her life.

The only drawback is that this marks the end of an era at the place I called home for five years. It was a cozy place, not too large not too small, and a lot of memories were made. Some of my worst moments and some of my best moments were in my old bedroom, but I was happy there even when I wasn’t happy with anything else.

In three weeks, I’ll arrive in Amarillo and I’ll be in a Freckles-less house, because the place I called home is now 30 minutes away from where my mom is staying. The happy couple and Rugby are all happy in their new home, and I know I will be too, but the sudden pull string that jerked two things away from what I was so comfortable in still feel too much like fiction.

When I first heard the news my mom was engaged, my mind immediately jumped back to the article about the American-turned-Australian. I found that so weird, because I hadn’t read the article in over three years. Was it my conscience giving me a sign? Who knows — but I listened.

I thought back to how I imagined returning home would be. I told myself it would be nothing much more than seeing new restaurants, stores, offices, etc. built around town and then driving by my old high school and college, telling myself, “Ya’ve done good!” But it wasn’t that, and it never will be. Going home became a self-reflection of just how much I’ve changed and how much my friends have changed. It became an excuse to get drunk a lot and have fun. While the latter is always going to be true, I used that to try and push away of what would eventually be exactly what I’m facing now.

My favorite kitty is gone, my home is about to be gone, and most of what I deceivingly told myself in times of sadness is also gone. All that I saw in movies and TV of characters who came back home were kinda true, but again, not real. I can definitely relate to these characters more than before, but even then, I sometimes find myself saying, “No, that’s not what really happens.” You don’t get it until you’ve been in it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still incredibly excited to see my mom, dad, grandpa and little brother because nothing has changed on that front, but I didn’t necessarily expect the change to come as fast as it did. Then again, that in itself is all I’ve come to expect with everything since 2013.

And then again, I’ll also have Whataburger, too.

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