On Sunday evening I sat on cool stone high above the Prague rooftops between two new friends with whom I felt completely at ease, completely at home. I’d known both them and the city for a mere two days, but climbing in the cab that night to leave felt as though I were a sour berry getting plucked from the stem too soon. Sitting there in the park above Prague – the sun setting behind the buildings and the cold coiling around us like ribbon – I allowed myself to seep in a warm, blurry contentment. Perhaps, I thought, this fuzzy and loose sort of bliss is simply a result of having gotten only two hours of sleep. But as the colors of the city – pinks, pale grays and creams, the turquoise of old copper, and the coral orange of rooftops – darkened with the setting sun, I knew it wasn’t only exhaustion.
I let my tired body sink into the window seat of the plane and my mind flipped with fondness through images from the weekend – fighting through Christmas crowds in Old Town Square, walking over empty Charles Bridge at 3:00 in the morning, laughing to the point of tears, dancing to the point of exhaustion, sucking flaming shots of absinthe and who knows what else through straws. So many happy new things to remember, yet from this point I immediately jumped to earlier memories, first to my new family and friends in Amsterdam, then to Italy one year ago, to college rowing, to my sister and brother, to my childhood home. I recalled nothing with contempt – only pure affection and gratitude.
I talked to my sister online the following day, and though I really couldn’t wait to tell her about the amazing time I had in Prague, some unexpected urge prompted me first to tell her that I miss her, but I told her this with only love and excitement, not bogging it down with heavy need and homesickness. I am happy to begin noticing a change in myself. As I commit one exhilarating new experience after another to my memory this year, as I grow more and more comfortable, more at home, more happy in Europe, I can see my love for my previous life and home begin to change, begin to lift up.
This love no longer stands in defiance against what I am now trying to do, no longer sits like a rock in my chest reminding me of how happy I once was in a different place. Instead of a weight that I carry with me, it will now raise me gently up to the new things I come to – push me like a guiding hand or lift me like wings to find clarity, color and beauty in each new step I take.
When you no longer need your previous life to feel content and comfortable, no longer view home with a sickness but simply with an undiluted love – that is when you’ll truly appreciate it. I will always wish to be able to blink and be at home again when I need to, if only just for a moment, but there is no reason that has to hold me back or change the way I see new places. I have long clung to a bitter scorn and resentment at the fact that time forces us to move on before we’re ready, before we’ve had enough – and it will probably be years before I ever truly release that. But I am finally starting to learn that the happier you allow yourself to be somewhere else, the more fondly you think of everywhere that you’ve been before.