The Costs of Coming Home

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Eight-Year SojournTurns out you can come home again.

But it will cost you.

What it will cost you is a matter of what you put in to the decision to leave home in the first place.

Did you leave home out of fear? Fear that you’d never amount to anything there. Was it too small to contain you? Constantly running to the edges of town like a Bruce Springsteen song. Was it wanderlust? The kind of wanderlust seeing all the home towns on earth can’t cover. 

Coming home is the abandonement or the fullfillment of dreams. And sometimes circrumstances bigger than yourself bring you home.

And you come home crawling on your knees or dragging those broken dreams behind you like souvenirs and scars.

There’s a bit of loathing that happens in the weeks and months after you show up back on your old doorstep. But it gradually subsides as the familiar surroundings recapture your imagination.

And you discover the many things you took for granted before. The places where you did not go, because you were looking too far down the road. The friendships you thought were stronger than time and distance.

You rebuild your life, making small adjustments to improve your trajectory. You pick up but not where you left off. It’s somewhere left of that.

You watch the people who never left, and you wonder if you did the right thing. For a little while, and then you remember why you left.

Again, and again, as you lay in bed at night.

You come home over and over, with all the shame of failure hanging around like the cobwebs on your stuff stored in the nooks and crannies of your former life.

But you watch your children shuffle the game pieces of their lives, and this isn’t their home town.

Not yet, anyway.

And maybe not ever.

Only now, a year after we returned home, do I count the costs and measure the impacts of our sojourn.

I can tally them up on a sheet of paper or just feel them mentally and physically every moment of every day.

I can also appreciate the great benefits of coming home again, though where they stack up against the costs, I leave that for future generations to figure out, if they ever dig down to this layer.

You can come home again, but should you?

If you answer this, then you know where I’ve been.




4 thoughts on “The Costs of Coming Home”

  1. This is an interesting and melancholy read, Tim. I wonder…. did where you are now, always feel like “home”…. when you weren’t there? As in, did you ever stop thinking of it AS home? And, would you head out again if and when that seemed like the right thing to do?

    1. Good questions, Grace. It was melancholy. After a year of being home, I’m not feeling it 100 percent, but it’s not all about me anymore. I grew up as a missionary kid traveling all over the world, so when my parents decided to move us to Salem, Oregon for various safety reasons, it felt like my whole world came crashing down around me. I had to go to school year round and only traveled during the summers, and I suffered without as much exposure as I had had growing up. This left a bit of resentment in me about my new hometown, so that when I turned 18, I just wanted to run away, like all the songs. I got in an arguement with my high school principal just a few weeks before graduation. I told him I was too big for this place, that I was going to the South Pacific or somewhere to explore. He said, “Akimoff, you’ll be lucky to be working at gas station a year from now.” Well, he was right, I was working at a gas station a year after graduating, but that was just before I flew off to Hawaii and eventually Fiji. I came home to get married, and then Cheryl and I returned to Hawaii on and off for five years, among other places. I couldn’t get enough of new things. But we also wanted to have a family, albeit one that traveled. When we had Cole, we visited another 11 countries together as a family and had some of the craziest adventures of our lives so far. But after Carson was born, we noticed it was far more difficult to travel. When Gabrielle was born, I was looking for my first full-time job as a journalist, and I applied all over the country. Turned out I got the best offer from the newspaper in my hometown. I started in to work there and quickly grew disatisfied with it, so when a former colleague offered me a job in Missoula, I took it. Anything to get away and still get paid. It was tough for a while, being away from family, but we fell in love with Missoula and our friends there, so much so that we threatened to stay forever. Sadly, the Missoulian was run, at the time, by a bunch of misfits, and I was laid off. All of this to give you a very short answer of yes, it always felt like home, but a home that you reluctantly accept. A mediocore hometown, as state capitals tend to be. Would I ever head out again? Yes, I’m currently opening a brewery here in Oregon with plans to stay put while the kids grow up, but Cheryl and I have always dreamed of going out on big adventures again. We would love to work in refugee camps or travel to ancient places and document interesting cultures again. I suppose the melancholy you sensed in that piece had to do mostly with the reluctant acceptence I have for my assigned hometown.


  2. Interesting thoughts, Tim, a somerhing I’ve been thinking, now that after 15 years of living in the same area, this year I’m 90% away and just visiting home. What is it that makes home? Is it where you spend most of your time, or where your roots are or where your heart is?

    1. I think it’s a little of both, but it depends on who you are. I’m a bit restless at heart and find a lot of solace in traveling and meeting new people. Some people are very attached to a particular place and find solace in the familiarity of it all. So it’s difficult to define what home is.

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