Caitlin Schanaker
July 02, 2015 7:51 am

I was born and raised in a small desert town in Arizona. The kind of town with occasional tumbleweeds and excessive winter visitors. There’s a big sky and a small population, bright stars and dull shopping. Despite of or maybe because of its flaws, I loved growing up there. I was a desert girl through and through. I had seen countless snakes and been stung by a scorpion; the desert was in my blood. I lived in the same house for 18 years with my parents and my 3 brothers. I had my own room. I was a packrat, and I was proud.

After I graduated high school, I broke the mold and went all the way to neighboring California for college. For me it was a lifetime away from home. I still returned to Arizona every summer, every holiday, and every 3-day weekend. I felt like I “moved” often, dorm to home to apartment to home. But it wasn’t until I turned 22, got married, and moved across the country to Virginia that I truly understood the concept of moving. We were there three years before heading back to Arizona. It seemed to happen so fast. One day we were moving in, getting advice on how to make friends and try new places in a new city, the next we were on a plane back.

Readjusting to Arizona was so much harder than I thought. I was so excited to return home, but I was also unprepared for all the feelings I would have about the familiar city after venturing outside of it. Here’s what I wish someone had told me.

Going from having your family far away to just nearby is great, but also weird

It sounds kind of silly and maybe it is, but there was something incredibly special about being the far-away loved ones. When we would come home for the holidays, our schedules were always packed with visits and events. Even though it was chaotic and sometimes stressful, it was also exciting to feel like we were the crazy travelers with the strange lives and fun stories. Now, I’m so happy that can see my family whenever I want, but it’s not as special when it was just a couple times a year.

It’s going to be different than when you were growing up

Being in another part of the country and in a new city stretched me as a person. I had to become more outgoing. I made new friends and developed new tastes. My husband and I grew closer and experienced life together in a brand new way. Coming back to my old haunts felt great, but I realized that even if the place was the same, I was a different person than before I left. And that’s totally OK and normal.

You have to work at making your hometown “home” again

Arizona was always the final frontier, the green grass on the other side of that temporary Virginia excursion. But the longer we stayed there, the more Virginia became our home. Coming “home” to Arizona that summer suddenly felt strange and incomplete because we had left such a big part of our hearts in Virginia. I realized that even though parts of my hometown would always be home, I had to work to make them mine again. You have to carve new grooves, find new favorite spots, and trust that you’ll feel that home feeling again soon.

Moving to Virginia was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I’m grateful for all of it, funk and all. It changed me. I learned that there are kindred spirits everywhere and that I actually can survive living somewhere else. My bubble is a little bit bigger now. We made a home somewhere new, and it’s a home that will live in my heart forever. But now I’m ready; it’s time to do this all again. Arizona, let’s fall in love again, shall we?

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[Image via Universal Studios]

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