Twenty years ago this month, I packed everything I owned into a small U-Haul and with great anticipation steered south from my native North Carolina to the land of palm trees and eternal sunshine. I must say that Florida has been good to me. I met the woman of my dreams, convinced her to marry me, began raising two great kids and lucked into a solid career path in Orlando. All’s well in paradise.
But I miss North Carolina with a passion. The more I feel settled and established in Florida, the more my mind turns to the past and my formative years in and around my hometown of Winston-Salem. I find myself longing for time with the friends and familiar landscapes of yesteryear and even begin to wonder if I "belong" back there.
Lest we venture too far down this path, though, I recall the wisdom of Thomas Wolfe: “You can’t go home again.” And gosh darn it, he was right. I can visit as much as I like but can’t truly return to the old days any more than I can smooth the wrinkles on my face or have my brown hair back (without faking it).
So, I guess I've come to realize that I never really left North Carolina. It’s always there, in my recollections, in my perspectives, certainly in my heart. Honestly, I should count myself lucky to have two hometowns, two special places where I've put down roots and that feel comfortable and welcoming. Yes, it does make for a bit of a schizophrenic existence, but it's a feeling that's starting to grow on me finally, 20 years after that fateful adventure in the U-Haul.