My winter break began the same as any other. I trekked five hours through holiday traffic to Melbourne to spend the traditional warm and sunny Florida Christmas with my family.
Christmas Eve we stuffed ourselves with homemade lasagna and southern comfort cake that made the whole house smell like heaven. We spent Christmas morning opening presents in our PJs and ended the night with our bellies full of ham and arguments with my brother in the movie theater lobby over whether we’d see Sisters or Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I felt the holiday spirit as I spent the short week and a half I had off of work with my family.
And yet, a strange feeling hung in the background of our small family holiday. The light tugs in the bottom of my stomach returned this break. I’ve felt that tug before, after my first move away freshman year.
This time, however, it felt different: A reverse homesick. I felt homesick for Tallahassee. Since moving away, my brother now resided in my old room, and I slept in the newly deemed guest room under the old, faded blue comforter. I stared up at empty, undecorated walls and longed for my Tallahassee apartment, away from a house crammed with more people than beds. Don’t get me wrong; I love spending time with my family and visiting Melbourne. But this break, my family became the only real reason I had to stay.
One a Friday night during break, I sat in my living room and watched Chopped re-runs with my Grandma. When I told my friend over a casual text message about my wild night in, he replied, “That’s it? You don’t have any plans with the old squad?”
I stared down at my phone in my hand. The flashing cursor blinked up at me. It was then that I realized that I didn’t have “a squad” in Melbourne anymore.
I once had my handful of high school friends with whom I spent most of my adolescent time. Despite the sleepy, less-than-exciting reputation of Melbourne, we always found something fun to do when we were together. We strolled the beach late at night with sand between our toes and got ice cream at our favorite soft serve place.
After graduating high school, we began to drift apart. We tried to stay friends as long as we could. We promised to see each other on our weekend trips home, and for a while we did meet up over lunch when we were all in town, talking about our new schools or the crappy part-time jobs we acquired just to pay rent.
As time passed, we cancelled plans more and more until we no longer bothered answering each other’s text messages. That was it. Aside from my parents and brother, I no longer felt any emotional connection to a place that I once called home.
I felt guilty when I first recognized my reverse homesickness for Tallahassee. I thought I should always feel some kind of pull toward the place I grew up, but I just don’t anymore. I soon realized that there’s nothing wrong with leaving your hometown behind you. I found a new home at FSU; that’s just a part of growing up. Reverse homesickness is a weird feeling, but it’s also a grown up one. You can’t stay rooted to home forever or you’ll never be able to let yourself leave.
Melbourne still holds a special place in my heart; nothing can change that. But late nights in Tallahassee watching bad horror movie sagas with my girls and bonfires where we stuff our faces with s’mores reside across the state from me now, nestled somewhere in the rolling, green hills of Florida State University: My new home.