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memory and loss

Faded ticket stubs, dried rose petals folded inside notes of high school love, gleeful photos of attempting to blow out candles on childhood birthday cakes, and journals describing firsts---the first time away from home, the first crush, the first heartbreak, and the first encounter with grief. A whole life, a full life, is contained in the dusty leather photo albums and journals, remnants of a world before Facebook and iPhones. This past life, which I visit upon coming “home,” feels distant. I associate with the girl in the photos, whose memories I find in my childhood bedroom---the one smiling in the photos, wistfully blowing dandelion seeds off a dark green stem; the one who scribbled “BFFs” on the back of pictures and saved notes secretly passed in class, attempting to immortalize friendship; and the one with the mischievous grin of adventure-scheming, creating imaginary worlds in the backyard. Yet, she feels distant.

Home is now packaged with the holidays and my trips are fewer and shorter. At times it astounds me that over ten years ago, I packed my bags, ready for a new world in Boston. Without fail, upon returning to this bedroom, my attention is drawn to the old photo albums (which I aptly called “memory books”), scribbled notes, and journals---each full of its own memories. Perhaps by searching through the past I can find answers to the persistent questions of the present. Perhaps simply reigniting the memories, the feelings, of a life contained within a single community and countable friendships, will bring resolutions to questions in a life not contained by space and experiences.

What pulls me to these photos and scribbles is the inability to return to these cherished moments---childhood, a past sense of friendship and family, or, in many ways, the version of myself that existed here. As the brilliant article in the Harvard Business Review, How to Move Around without Losing your Roots notes, “. . . home is where we are from---the place we begin to be.” Home is where the “self” I began with is.

As a wise friend told me recently that we carry the “versions” of ourselves from the past with us.

The self in the photos is confident in belonging; joyful, yet naive to realities beyond her world; and, yet this self longed for understanding beyond her immediate experience. While the current version feels distant from the photos and scribbles, so much of the searching, creating, and defining in my life was born in this mischievous grin and the very first iteration of home and self. The notion of home, even if it is past, challenges me to assess changes and growth, while tying my current life back to the Colorado landscapes, the house my father built, and friendships helped me define who I was in the beginning. As distant as I may ever feel, my current self is rooted in this past narrative of home and place. If home is an experience of “belonging, a feeling of being whole and known,” as the HBR article describes, it is not my current self in the place that “I began” that feels at home. Yet, the self I remember when I visit may hold joyful child-like insights and mischievous adventure schemes to inform my continued search for this notion of “home.”