“There is no past. Only present. And future.” -Theodicus
There’s a saying that you can never go home again, and I believe wholeheartedly in it. Not that you can’t go back to the physical place, but that you can’t go back to how you used to fit into that space. That’s important for a world of reasons, but the biggest one is that there is something to be said for nostalgia, once that distance has been forged, that connects us back to that time period, and to who we were at the time.
So many people have memories of their childhoods, be they good or bad, that they come back to in one way or another. For me that childhood was a solid mix of the good and the bad. But whichever sentiment clouds my memories, it’s safe to say that every single one of those thoughts involves my religious upbringing. In fact, just today I was singing “Jesus Loves Me” while at work, and I didn’t even realize I was doing it until I was on the second verse.
My mother used to always ask me to go to church with her every single time I went back to Philadelphia for a visit. I could hear it in her voice, too, that emotion that said I was doing a horrible thing saying no, but there was also that feeling of sadness. And I knew that she wasn’t just asking me to go to church. She was wondering where she went wrong, that I would so fully abandon the church that pretty much raised me nearly as much as she herself did.
But what I wanted to tell her was that it was never her, that she hadn’t done anything wrong. It was just that the process of me growing up led me to a different conclusion than she had reached. In fact, she and the church had taught me so well about freedom of choice, and of making your own decisions based on where your own soul leads, that I was able to make my own way. That way led me away from organized religion as a whole, and led me to an appreciation of the individual path to understanding. Which is okay.
“When I returned, the ghost of who I used to be said hello. And goodbye.”
I did go back, though, at least physically. One time my mother asked if I would go and I surprised even myself by saying yes. My wife and I took the little one (at the time), and it was all very surreal. In fact, many of the church members who I grew up with didn’t even recognize me it had been so long. So, it became an interesting journey indeed, as they peered at me from across the sanctuary, wondering who this man was who at once looked both familiar and obscure. And I saw them through my changed eyes as well, these people who helped me become who I am, but it wasn’t the same.
It shouldn’t be the same, either. Yes, I will always carry them and what they’ve done for me close to my heart, but we’ve all changed, moved on mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We can still inhabit the same physical space, but it won’t be the same. You never can go home again because home shift and changes, and we do as well. And it can be sad, but it can also be joyous. I choose to see it as joyous.