Typical Newton, circa 2005
It's 5am and I'm wide awake. Tomorrow (today?) is my last day in Newton. On Sunday my father and I will pack up the family mini-van and drive to New York, where I will be spending the summer. And then the fall. And then the spring. And then, I will graduate, and I will (hopefully–please somebody hire me and pay me so I can pay rent) continue living there. Which makes New York...the place where I will be living as an adult. Which makes it home. Which makes Newton...what?
I always tell people that I love coming home, and that I wouldn't appreciate New York as much as I do if Newton did not exist. To an extent, that is true. I would never just regard Newton as "my parent's home" or "a town where I used to live." Supposedly when one leaves, home evaporates, but I have not found that to be true. In fact, the most disconcerting part about being home is how the same it is. I leave for long periods of time and I change. But I come back, and everything is identical. It's confusing trying to fit the new version of myself back into the same mold. Sometimes it's impossible.
This is the first time I've come home and felt old. I'm not sure what it is: the fact that my brother is graduating high school? The fact that most of my friends are studying for tests that will grant them admittance into grad school? The fact that I attended the engagement party of a girl I went to high school with? The fact that at any given moment my mother will look at me, tear up, and either yell at me for "becoming an adult and moving to New York" or just hug me very tightly? Whatever the cause, the result is that I finally feel like one of the big kids. I've spent my whole life wondering when I would feel as old as the people I had once looked up to, and I'm finally there.
The problem is that as I curl up in my big queen size bed each night in Newton, I feel my high school self seep into my pores. Most of my NYU friends say they do the least damage when they are home, but I am the exact opposite. I am a wreck when I'm home. Not on the outside: you'd never notice from looking at me. But my brain acts as though it is on drugs, and by drugs I mean it regresses four years. I act like my old self. I make the same poor decisions. I call boys who I have long since gotten over and allow them to upset me all over again. I engage in stupid dramatics with girls who I didn't even know I remembered. I whine to my mom about trivial matters, and I suddenly become too shy to pop into grocery stores and pick up challah. It's baffling. I have grown up so much since leaving home the first time around; why does returning seem to nullify each and every stride I have made as a human being?
I have yet to figure out why. It's not a calamity. On the outside I seem fine. On the inside I know I will be fine. But I feel the change, and my actions confirm that it's there, and I'd like to understand what causes it and what it means. It makes my conception of home fuzzy. It's not that I don't enjoy being here, it's just that I feel like I'm...not here. It's really just an impostor in my body. The Vanessa who has spent the past two weeks in Newton is not an accurate representation of the Vanessa I know I am these days. Rather, she is a weird hybrid of my high school self and someone who knows much better. She's confusing, and she's left me confused.
So Newton is stressful. It's not that I don't consider it home, it's just that I don't consider myself a reality here. I am either floating above everything, or I am a bit too immersed. I'm not really living a current life here: I am either avoiding the past or trying to recreate it. Neither is appropriate. Which I suppose is what makes New York an easy place to call home now. Everything that happens there is current, grounding me in a time and space that I can grasp and understand. The past is very recent and the present is tangible. I can accept my role in New York and I know how to play the most up to date version of myself there. Interestingly, the lack of a comfort zone there is exactly what makes it comfortable. Here everything is just a little too close for comfort.