Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"Oh My God, I Can't Feel My Kneecaps," or, Surviving the Return Trip

I was lucky, in a way. Moving home in July allowed me some time to readjust to life in the North. And by "life in the North," I mostly mean the weather situation. I really did tell my BFF Kate that I couldn't feel my kneecaps one night when we were walking the two blocks from her apartment to a coffeehouse. Ten years of balmy Carolina weather didn't do me any favors. Seriously; I never even got a tan, and my blood thinned right the hell out. But there were other things, too. Cultural things.

Toward the end of my time in NC, I said to several people that the only thing I knew for sure was a decade in the South hadn't broken me of being a Northerner. Yet reentry wasn't easy. For starters, I no longer knew my hometown. The mall had changed. You could turn right on red at intersections where such a move was previously illegal. We didn't have a lady governor anymore. Only about three people I'd known in my previous life still lived in the area, and I'm lucky they're people I like. 

Being surrounded by Southerners for so long also gave me some weird verbal tics. I still say "y'all" on the reg, and my co-workers once stared at me for a full five seconds after I said to a customer, "Your change is two dollars and forty-five cent" (instead of "cents"). When people in the North say, "Bless your heart," I flinch, because I know it means the opposite in the South, and that's something you don't forget.

Having made a goodly number of trips home to MI from NC during my time away, I was at a bit of an advantage over anyone who may have just moved to the area with no prior experience. And having my parents down the hall was helpful when I had questions about which roads I was meant to take or where certain stores were located (or not, as the case sometimes is). 

Still, it's been a bit baffling to me, all of this snow and stuff. I'm honestly a little angry that most of my shoes now have salt stains on them--a consequence of cold-weather living about which I had forgotten. And nothing can replace making a run to Cook-Out, the mother of all fast-food restaurants, when I want a chicken sandwich. (I miss Cook-Out almost as much as I miss my blue bedroom, and that's saying something.) Time and space function differently in the suburbs than they do in the sticks. For example, there are days when I decide not to go somewhere because it's "too far away," even though it's only twenty miles down the road and I used to hop in the car to get dinner an hour and a half away in Fayetteville without a thought. Also, I never knew how good I had it when I was connected to our super-fast campus Internet; blogging, or even just cruising through Facebook, is now a far more fraught experience than it should be, given the spotty service in our house.

Leaving the house from time to time is a helpful way of coping. Most of our roads here go either straight east and west or straight north and south, so it's difficult to get truly lost. Eating local food unlocks a part of your brain that you maybe didn't realize was collecting dust. Tuning in to watch the nearby sports franchises brings a sense of belonging to your life, because millions of people are cheering along with you. 

Above all, taking a moment here and there to look around and realize that you're among your tribe again can make the difference between feeling lost and feeling found. 


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