How does one return to one's birthplace after one has long since read and accepted Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again?
The question isn't academic. Well, it kind of is: I ask because I am in the process of processing my way back into graduate school after a long medical leave. I ask because I, like Ash and Solid, have certain positive associations with the academic milieu despite also harboring some hard-earned ambivalence. I ask because nostalgia isn't really available to somebody as anxious as I am, but living my life inside a mirrored cave of apocalyptic self-doubt and drab self-loathing has after months and months finally culminated in my feeling the need to make a move. (Of course I have all kinds of feelings, but after much anger/fear/shame and a lot of hard work my urge to resume living has sharpened itself from a mere psychic sensation into something more like, shit, a belief.)
So I'm moving, flailing, backstroking, flouncing. It is sometimes hard to distinguish between the concrete and the symbolic, between place and time, between my own desires/anxieties and those of others. It's a mess and, like Ash wrote, equal parts lonely and boring. But it's better than the lonelier and boring-er confines of a stigma'd life lived out of bounds, out of work and out of sorts.
After moving to Michigan and before my great depression I had many occasions to fly "back" to Oregon for work or school. Each time I returned I felt a certain lightening - even from the inside of the cheesy airport - as if it were somehow possible for a place and its associated people and memories to welcome me into myself. I hope to Christ I don't feel that same ease when I visit Oregon again, because it would only be the pinging of false hope. There are good times ahead in my medium-term future, but not very many easy ones. (The easy times went under-appreciated while I was living them and weren't even ever really that comfortable anyway. Anxiety can be dull or diverting but it's never comfortable.) I cannot go home again but I must once again go to my real and imagined Oregon.
These trying times need metaphors, archetypes, tropes. And so it is that I, like my OG colleagues, find myself shopping for terms of self-understanding. Am I "returning" to myself or is this a "new beginning"? I am fearful of both metaphors but I am conscious that life without a worldview is madness in itself: boring, lonely.