Last week I traveled to North Carolina for the first time since leaving there in 2007 (with Ritz in the passenger seat as my loyal co-pilot). The trip seemed like a great idea when we booked it in August. One of my boyfriend's relatives was getting married in a town a few hours away from the one I had last lived in, so it seemed foolish to travel all that way and not visit my friends who were nearby. What I hadn't anticipated was the amount of dread I felt in the week before the trip, when it occurred to me that I had left North Carolina at my personal rock bottom. The thought of returning and dealing with the memories, made me queasy. I'm a different person than I was when I left. "But aren't you proud of that?" my boyfriend asked when I shared my anxiety with him. "Don't you want to show off how much you've changed?" Sure I'm proud, (although I didn't feel a need to show off) but that didn't make the thought of facing my past any easier.
When I saw my closest friends last week, I gave each woman a lengthy embrace. I could practically visualize the time melting away, along with all my distress. It felt so good to be in the company of each of them. I'll admit I wasn't on the best of terms with them all when I moved away, something I feel a lot of sorrow about, but we had reconnected through FaceBook and I was genuinely glad to spend time with them.
As we traveled around North Carolina and visited with my friends, I was reminded of my past life there in a way I hadn't been in years. I thought of my ex-husband, of our failed marriage, of the beautiful house we had owned, of Ritz and the comfort he had brought me as I moved and left those things behind. I was hoping to return home with a sense that I had come full circle, that I had gone back to face my demons. But instead of feeling separate from the woman I was, I feel more connected to her. I see that even though I'm different in many ways, I'm still the same at my core. I still feel a strong connection to the people I knew there and the different places I lived. It's all a part of me. Looking at those words typed out, it sounds a bit cliche but I can't think of a better way to say it. I feel Ritz's absence a bit stronger today than I have in a while. I'm glad our anniversary came so close to my trip to where we moved from. It reminds me of how far I've come in the past eight years and how far I will probably go in the next eight.