It was the month before my 10th birthday. A copy of Gone with the Wind tucked under my arm and a scuffed rolling suitcase buckling behind my floral Doc Martens, I followed my parents through LaGuardia airport and into a taxi cab. An hour later, the neon lights of Times Square reflecting in my thin-rimmed glasses, I experienced my first homecoming.
I wasn’t a kid who played house – pouring over pink plates of plastic broccoli stalks in a pint-sized kitchen with a baby doll on my hip; I was a dreamer, an inquisitor, and – as result – an outsider. Although I was born, bred, and bound for many more years below the Mason-Dixon, this city – where car horns replaced chirping crickets, where skyscrapers towered instead of pine trees, and where women pushed the limits of their ambitions instead of the handles of grocery carts – felt like home.
15 years later, a Labrador Retriever by my side and a collection of vintage furniture stacked in a rickety rental truck, I followed a career from my post-graduate home in the Mid-Atlantic to Manhattan. My Manhattan.
Tomorrow, I’ll fly South for the second time since relocating to New York City. Surrounded by a gaggle of bridesmaids in a North Carolina cabin, I’ll cherish the opportunity to serve as Maid of Honor to my best friend. I plan to solely consume fried chicken and sweet tea, to blast country music from my car’s open sunroof, and to shake the Upper West Side dust off my well-worn western boots.
When preparing for trips outside of the six-mile radius within which I live and work, anxiety often muddles excitement. What if, upon returning to the arena where Appalachian foothills and clouds meet in an infinite horizon outside my childhood windows, I find regret, heartbreak, or discontent? What if I realize my metropolitan whims are fleeting and my true destiny rests in a rocking chair on a Georgia front porch?
“Everyone has to go home,” coaxes Noreen Conlon, beloved assistant to the Publisher of Southern Living and my mother in Manhattan. “You’re lucky enough to have two homes.”
Perhaps – when juxtaposed against the Steel Magnolias of my youth who’ve found stability and eternal bliss in steady jobs and diamond engagement rings – I have no authority from which to share advice. I am, after all, a single woman scraping by on martinis, tested morals, minimal spending money, and tireless motivation in the most competitive city in the world. That disclaimer noted, to my fellow 20-something Southern Living readers, I offer the following advice:
Embrace the home where you feel most comfortable – where your dreams are rooted in adolescent determination. Find the home where you feel most alive – where success is manifested through maturity, strength, and tenacity.
Choose one. Love both. And enjoy every homecoming.