The one-year anniversary of my return to North Carolina was this month, so it seemed like a good time to speak out on what the past year has really been like and answer the question: Can you really go back home again?
When I crossed over the I-85 South Virginia/North Carolina border with a Carolina blue sky to welcome me, I said, I’m back, I’m home. It took me 16 years and a lot of moves up and down the East Coast and Midwest, but I had found my way back home, or so I thought.
See, over the past 12 months, I’ve been lost–I can’t seem to find my footing. Nothing feels right. Yes, Charlotte has my beloved Container Store and Fresh Market, Broadway shows tour here, it has the ballet, even the opera, and it’s even more aligned with my conservative viewpoints, but it’s not the same, something is off.
I left DC with open eyes. I knew I would miss going to shows at the Kennedy Center, or spending Sunday afternoon’s with a blanket, a book and a box of wine with Iwo Jima as my backdrop. Even with it’s insane traffic, I knew I would miss the postcard view of the Lincoln Memorial as I drove into DC over the Memorial Bridge. Nonetheless, I can categorically say, I don’t regret my decision to leave– it was time–the city wears you down. But Charlotte doesn’t fit. It’s as if I’m 15 all over again trying to wear my favorite Forenza shirt from two years before, ignoring the fact that my boobs have doubled in size and the only way I can still wear the shirt is if I wear a tank top underneath and leave it unbuttoned and open.
I look around at Charlotte and say, it’s not you, it’s me. For many, Charlotte has a lot to offer. The sheer growth of the city proves that people from all over the country find it a desirable location to plant roots. But for me, Charlotte leaves me empty and uninspired.
Charlotte has changed enormously since I last lived here in 1989 and flourished as a high school senior. My gold and green pom poms from Friday nights on the sidelines of Independence football games are buried away in a storage bin, a symbol of what I used to be and what I used to call home. I graduated, moved away and grew up. Charlotte grew up too, but as so often happens when you meet up with an old friend years later, you discover the two of you grew apart and no longer want or like the same things. For over 20 years, I have lived a non-traditional, take a chance, sometimes gritty, pull your bootstraps up and do it, I can’t believe you did that kind of lifestyle. Charlotte on the other hand stayed safe, craving, even buying respect, a desperation to fit-in no matter what part of its self it had to compromise.
The saying goes, “home is where the heart is” and well, my heart no longer lives in Charlotte–it’s in New York, Paris, London, Moscow, Bali, Fiji, Tuscany, basically, anywhere a plane and my passport can take me. For the moment, Charlotte is home base, but it’s not home–it’s a connecting terminal for this juncture in my life–it’s purpose to get me from point A to point B, wherever that might be, wherever life takes me.