birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Hometown Blues

I grew up without moving until I graduated from high school. Except that my parents were divorced and so part of me moved and was slightly alienated from that place. And maybe it’s positive to know yourself in another place, but I didn’t really have friends or community when I was with my dad, so it was kind of just time away from the place. So, hometown means the community where I lived and what kind of formed my thoughts about society and culture, a starting point.

But I don’t find the hometown concept very satisfying because all places are always changing. And a hometown doesn’t really know you like you might know it, its streets and signposts, its grocery stores and bank drive thrus. If a hometown is really the people in the place, then it’s hard to keep a hold on that. When I go to my hometown I usually feel more like avoiding people I might know and there is no good reason for this except a feeling of insecurity. I feel unaccomplished and so I would probably have to be approached by someone to actually talk with them. My hometown has felt like a place where I had potential, but that whatever my potential was, was not dreamed up to take place there in that town. I wanted my adult life to take place somewhere else, because it was clear that no one stuck around there if they could help it. And I didn’t have an extended family there, just my mom. The town wasn’t an extension of family. It was more feeling like I wasn’t related to anyone, except by team mascot and address. And now I think of the hometown the town where I actually lived, the place where I would walk to the bus stop. I think about the crumbling bike trail that led to the middle school. I think about the fallen maple leaves and whistling by myself. I have memories with others but I go to the solitary time, where it’s just me in a place. I felt safe and myself, I guess.

When I travel there now I feel unrealized and an outsider. I don’t ever regret not staying there even though the town I lived in and the town with the high school needed people to make it a better place to live -- but economics are the reason for the decline and also a new economy is forced to emerge out of the rubble of the main industries declining and largely going away.

I have changed my thinking to try to try to claim all the places I have lived and loved to be a home for me. I think it’s in my wiring to constantly feel like an outsider and I need to have some radical realization to help me feel at home, especially when feeling like an outsider in the place where I spent 18 years. This outsider status is mostly due to not maintaining relationships and a slow and constant alienation. But the hometown is a place I use in relating with others, where I’ve come from. Bringing in all the other places I’ve felt at home, helps me be a little more secure in my identity because the big thought is that a hometown is part of me, my identity. And who am I if I have complicated, unsteady feelings about my hometown? I am going to not worry so much and instead try to explore these feelings -- I think there might be a lot to learn along the way.


Empty Hands & a Red Face