When you return, remember to take pictures.

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(the post before this one)

I hadn’t been back in four months, four months since I packed up my car and left for good. I planned to visit, and I would keep to that plan, but there would be no comeback, no “I changed my mind, I’m staying.” It was final, and I was completely okay with that.

But at some point I knew I wanted to go back; I had my city to see and my people to reconnect with. I just didn’t go back for what felt like a really long time.

But I think distance helped. I’ve learned over the last few years how time is on our side, and if you give yourself six months, a year, five years, you won’t be the same as you were and you’ll have fresh perspective and maybe, perhaps, you’ll be almost entirely healed.

That’s not to say when you return to a place, or see someone who left your life a long time ago, that you won’t feel a range of emotions. It’s hard watching a person move on because two years go by and you realize you know nothing about them anymore; you only know who they were in that part of their past. I think it’s the same with places, with anything that is easy to lose and one day we return to it and realize nothing will be the same but somehow we’re okay with that.

I drove through what I called “my city” all of last semester and went back this weekend and realized it was no longer my city. The skyline was beautiful, host of my favorite Batman building, and the clean, bubbly atmosphere of downtown welcomed me back. I really do love Nashville.

But as I rounded the corner and saw the buildings for the first time, I almost felt disappointed. It looked smaller than I remembered, and the buildings weren’t towering over me like the buildings in Atlanta do, making me feel small yet infinite all in one breath.

That was significant. I gripped the steering wheel and remember whispering, “It’s not home anymore,” and breathed a sigh of relief. I was merely coming and going, passing through, saying hello and quickly packing up and saying goodbye again. I knew I didn’t want to stay.

But going back was necessary – if I hadn’t, I would have sat paranoid at home worried about that “first” time I go back, to the place that holds a lot of good but a lot of bad memories for me, and I never would have found closure.

I understand closure is hard, really. I know what it’s like to lose people and gain them back, and I know what it feels like to lose them and lose them for good. I understand that feeling where you don’t feel settled in your skin, in your home, and you wonder if you’re ever going to find your place.

But one day you will, I promise you will. Since coming home this semester, I’m learning to be content, and I think I understand what that looks like now, to be content in whatever circumstance I’m in. No, it’s not ideal living at home again, and the college I commute to isn’t anything near a “college experience”. But I can also list the things that are good in my life, that I’m close to home and safe and that Atlanta has become my favorite place on earth – it’s my city. I’ve taken ownership of things; I’m proud to call home home. I enjoy my morning drive to school; I really like my psychology class; I’ve reconnected with a childhood best friend. There’s good that’s come out of this.

And I think it’s what you make of it, yeah? You can let something defeat you, or you can look it in the eye and walk away unaffected because you know it doesn’t have a right to have power over you anymore.

You heal when you keep moving, when you keep fighting, when you acknowledge the fear but you bravely keep going.

Because the dawn is coming, the night is always darkest before the dawn (hello Harvey Dent), and we fall so we can rise again. I can get really paranoid whenever I feel any sort of depression or anxiety coming on because I’m afraid it’s going to put me back where I was a few months ago, alone and consumed in darkness. It happened last night, and I had to call my friend and she reminded me why things are different, why things are going to be okay and how they already are okay.

That I made it. I survived.

She reminded me of the perspective I’ve gained, that just because you fail at one thing doesn’t mean you’re going to fail at everything. And you can always come back. Always. 

I’m not sure who this is hitting, but I’m slowly opening this bandaid to let the world see this wound, a wound I’m still sensitive to but one that I know a lot of people fight. I just want you to know you aren’t alone in this. You aren’t fighting alone; you’re seen, you’re felt. There are more people with internal, unseen battles than you realize, but you will survive.

One day you will be six months later, two years later, ten years later, and you’ll have perspective. You’ll see things in hindsight and you’ll have more grace for yourself, even if you have nothing left to give to yourself right now.

And things may still hurt, God will they still hurt. You may still carry baggage, and you’ll have to train yourself to drop the weights you keep picking up. They’re not serving any purpose in your life, other than hindering you from moving on.

But one day you will not be where you are, and you’ll be able to breathe again.

And you’ll go back.

When you return, remember to take pictures. Remember to see how far you’ve come and how things have worked out, even if it wasn’t in the way you expected. Remember to remember you’re okay. That’s how you heal.

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(feat. Jonathan, wii fit trainer Smashbros champion) 

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