The six years immediately following September 11, 2001 were not exactly the happiest time of my life. Like so many of us around the country I was taking stock of the blessings I had left after that singularly tragic day. I was alive, I had my health and a rented apartment I could get out of very quickly as I pushed "Reset" to start my life over again.
Like so many of us I looked for and took what work there was to be had, going deep in to survival mode and eschewing all previous "necessities" for the mere sake of food and shelter. I moved halfway across the country back to where family was at for moral support and rented an apartment in Central Baltimore where I would begin again making $9/hour on the graveyard shift and be happy to have that much. Cable television and Starbucks nothing; this exercise would test the definition of an "austerity program" as I learned to survive the winter largely without heat or air conditioning except on the most extreme days.
Three years after the last day I left town I'm thankfully loving life again in Texas and solidly on the road to economic and personal recovery. Yet what I find interesting is the desire to revisit some of the old places where times weren't so good, money wasn't what it could or should have been and the emotions were thin to the point of breaking. When I lived in California most of the time there was among the toughest I'd ever had to endure. A gracious landlord and cooperative creditors kept me afloat while phone calls from home and a particularly timely visit from family kept me going.
Still, many were the times standing in line at the discount grocer trying to make five dollars pay for dinner and maybe a small treat that I would see families ahead of me in line paying for their essentials with food stamps. I wondered to myself what I would do if they unknowingly dropped some of that government aid on the floor. It took some years for me to return to the Bay Area and not shudder at the thought of being there or cringe from the old feelings at seeing my former home.
Few have the opportunity to live in several different parts of the country; most tend to stay within 100 miles of where they were born and raised I would imagine. For them going to visit the old stomping grounds might be little more than going from the front to the back yard or down the street to the kid's playground. Certainly for those less fortunate it can seem that moving away from bad times and vibes is like riding the tail of a comet, fleeting and unlikely to ever happen.
I'm no psychologist yet I wonder if there is something in everyone that compels us to take stock of our lives against the places we have lived. Certainly it is quite understandable to go back to where good memories are overflowing and pouring through the floorboards but what is the macabre urge to go back and see where sadness reigned supreme?
It is perhaps not as easy as it sounds but I can say at least that for better or worse I've survived. I'm not in that place anymore.