You can’t go home again. I am not sure how many times this sentence ran through my head over the last eight years. I know that every trip I took back to the Southland I uttered some form of this sentence either out loud or in my heart as the landing gear stretched out towards the tarmac from underneath the flying tube I was seated. It was something that I pondered a lot prior to leaving for Kenya in 2004.
I had many dreams about death. I never really thought my departure was real, all the way until the point I awoke in a monastery in Nairobi. I figured “they” would find me out as a fraud and send me home packing. I was not sure what I feared. I knew that I was terrified. I knew my life would never be the same. My idea of home expanded, crumbled, and departed. It was renewed, transformed, recovered, and renamed. You can’t go home again.
When I was in late elementary school I had a wonderful imagination. I did play with others, when they were there. I preferred to be left alone. I was deeply introverted. I was tying to make sense of my world. A world turned upside down with the death of my grandfather and my parent’s divorce. My brothers and I were always the last ones in the schoolyard waiting to be picked up by our father, who drove from El Segundo to Westminster every weeknight. I would swing on the swings by myself and dream dreams.
I soared in the clouds looking for an escape. I desperately wanted to be anybody, anyone, and anything other than, Ryan. Inspired by the books I read I explored those places on the swing. I kicked my legs to the pyramids, along the Silk Road, and back and forth between time and space. I would get lost in thought and smile.
I had many homes growing up. I was born in San Fernando. I have lived in Washington State. I lived in Northeast Los Angeles. I lived in Westminster, California. I hit puberty in Westminster and fell in love in the San Fernando Valley. I love and miss them all for various reasons.
I remember my father telling me, “You can’t go home again,” for the first time just after he remarried and we all moved to the Valley. We were heart broken to leave our family and familiar surroundings. We harbored thoughts of breaking up our father’s marriage and then returning to Westminster. It never happened and we never went back home. We forged a new home together. A home I grew to love and miss when I departed across the ocean.
Again, I was on a jetting tube on its way to the Southland. This time I was with my wife. This would be our first trip “home” since we got married in 2008. This time my intimate worlds would collide. My homes would meet each other and I was not sure what would happen.
I have held on to the idea that one day we would return to the Southland, together. That my wife and I would eventually settle down in to our life together back home and then we could get to the real living. I think that is what streaked across my mind when I would travel to and from the Southland.
A part of me was taking an inventory of sorts. Sure it is expensive to live in LA, but you get much more in return. I found myself talking things up prior to our trip. I prayed on several occasions that God would clear the way and melt the heart of my beloved so that she could see this place I called home for what is was, “our predestined love nest of hope and glory.”
Then something happened on this trip. I drove around all the homes I known in my 33 years living in the Southland and with each passing building the memories flooded in and my heart did not budge. It was not a cold and isolating experience. It was more of a recognizing of old friends, old lovers that have moved on from each other. I tried to mourn or weep but it did not seem appropriate.
So much has changed. The mall where we would hang out and smoke cigarettes was now an upscale outdoor supercenter tied together by all your favorite eateries. Gone was the indoor wonderland and the center stage where we watched the parade of beautiful teenage women. Gone was the arcade where we school all takers on the craft of digital WWF wrestling. Gone was the storm channel we used to hang out in and drink beers.
We stopped at our favorite Taquería, El Tapatio. There we meet my oldest friends. The only friends I have know for longer than 22 years. We ordered a burrito. It was the same as I remembered. It was delicious and it made me feel 16 again. We carried on and caught up. It was awesome to be near these guys. I love them very much.
I prayed throughout the day for guidance, awareness from God. “Lord, make in me a new heart. Renew the right spirit within me…” There was not silence. God offered me physical evidence; the signs I used to pray for in abundance. It was not a mystery at all. You can’t go home again.
The Israelites wandered the dessert for 40 years. Jesus hung out in the desert for 40 days. The desert fathers and mothers vacationed in the desert for lifetimes. Countless souls search for the divine in a diversity of ways. I have been in the desert, searching for something. I have lost track of time. God has been calling me out of the desert for some time now. I want to go but I have grown fond of the desert. I am comfortable here. I am afraid to remove the mourners cloak and put on the wedding gown. I have been in a desert of abundance walking a path in hopes of bumping in to God as God has been waiting at the oasis until I got ready to leave the desert.
I am finally learning the never departing lesson; you are home. I no longer search aimlessly in any journey. I am hanging out where I am, trusting that God is searching for me. I will be found. I am not lost. I am found. I am home.
Don’t we are all search for home? Longing for that home we can’t go back to. The home that has keeps on living even as we have departed. A home that has transformed, renewed, reframed, and rejoiced in our departure. A home that fondly remembers us, even if we can no longer remember it’s loving cuddles.
Home is where the heart is. It’s cheesy. It’s true. Home is not a place as much as it is a state of mind. A claim placed upon ones mind and space as to say I am anchored to “_______.” Home, when tied to a physical location dims the divine light to which we truly hunger. You can’t go home again because you never truly left. I wonder if that really is not the Gospel in a simplistic, digestible pill. If I can’t get lost, leave, or return what does that mean for my relationships with God?
It is like removing the fires of hell and the glory of heaven so that all that remains in the pure joy of being in the presence of the Divine. In the end this is what I yearn for more than anything, to be squarely n the presence of the Divine and bask in her home.