I look around and see strange places once familiar to me.
Driving down streets long forgotten, I feel memories resurfacing, clouding my vision.
Nostalgia hits me hard.
I smile with sadness.
Home no longer feels like home.
Instead, it is filled with shadows of places I used to know and thoughts of what could have been had my choices been different.
Is there space for me here after all these years? I wonder.
Life has moved on, and I am a relic – stuck in the past but trying to find somewhere to go to start over and move forward.
This isn’t the homecoming I dreamed about, but it is the reality of the situation all the same- A natural consequence for leaving & joining the military.
Was serving worth fading into obscurity to family & friends?
It’s hard to tell.
Especially when I feel alone, even when surrounded by those I love the most.
Unfortunately, love isn’t enough to make me feel like I belong.
Where’s our connection?
I’ve missed so much during my enlistment and continued absence.
Maybe the shadows are calling to me for a reason?
Suddenly, they feel more welcoming than they did previously.
Maybe the shadows are reminding me that I belong despite my feelings?
Whispering, “You have roots in this place. Let me show you.“
Maybe the shadows of the past aren’t scary or depressing.
Maybe it’s my perception that is stealing the joy out of my return, not the shadows trying to soften the transition.
It is time to use them to my benefit.
Clinging to the fact that I am not in a foreign land, I dare to step out of the past in my mind’s eye and refamiliarize myself with my surroundings again.
It is a challenging endeavor but better than the alternative of looking through the window and watching life pass me by instead of embracing a new day full of hope and possibilities if only I could shake the melancholy keeping me in the darkness of my thoughts.
Lori Butierriesis a full-time caregiver to two children with disabilities. She uses her life experiences and the medical knowledge she gained from serving as a Hospital Corpsman in the United States Navy to help others facing similar hardships. Lori is an author for The Havok Journal, an official columnist for AwareNow Magazine, and a contributor to The Mighty. Likewise, other news sites like MSN and Yahoo! News have also republished select articles Lori has written. Lori’s writing extends to children’s literature. Her debut picture book, GIFT FROM GOD, was self-published at the beginning of 2021 and placed as a finalist in two categories in the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Lori’s long-term goals are to use her writing to educate others about, advocate for, and dismantle negative stereotypes regarding disability, mental health, and the military/veterans community.