For a long time, I wanted nothing to do with you. I filled my head with fantasies of escaping you. I deemed you too boring and too small for me to ever live in. I imagined myself living in a city with more to offer. I wanted a city with more public transit, more walkable areas and people. I thought once I’d leave, I’d only come back because I had to not because I wanted to. Eventually, I made good on my promise to myself, and I left.
I never thought I’d want to go back. The city that I moved to was everything that I wanted on paper. It was bigger, more diverse and felt alive in a way that you never did. I fell in love with the city I’d dreamed of my entire life. I’d always dreamed of being independent but didn’t realize independence could feel so lonely. The sheer size of this new city reminded me of my own insignificance. I finally had the power to do what I wanted, but no one to do it with. The more time I spent away from you, the more I realized I didn’t miss you in the physical sense; I missed how you connected me to others. You connected me to my family, my first friends and my community.
It took leaving to push me to change how I felt about you. When I think of you now, I don’t remember the ways you lacked or failed me. Instead, I remember everything you gave me. You gave me the streets I grew up on. The streets that allowed me to form relationships. You gave me a childhood filled with laughter and scraped knees. You gave me the space to learn and grow into who I am today. You gave and gave, and all I ever did was take.
I feel I must say, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I treated you like shit. I’m sorry I painted the image of you in my head in the worst possible light.
Last week, I went back. Physically, nothing has changed. The sidewalks are still unkempt, the church bell rings on the hour every hour and our community garden remains dead. Nothing has changed; yet to me, everything is different. You’re no longer somewhere that feels small. You’re a place that I still see myself in. Thank you for all you’ve given me. I know I’ll be back.