By Margarita Diaz
From icy cave
To icy drinks
In far away lands
That made me think.
From first impressions
To revisited places
Bringing new perspectives
On familiar faces.
A visit to a place
I once called home
And a land I only dreamed
I’d one day get to roam.
I made it to the mountains!
Not the mountains of Peru yet,* but a magical place I always dreamed of one day visiting: the Swiss Alps.
And I made a special visit back to a place I once called home, with a lot more Diverse in the City® opening my eyes, mind and heart to a new experience with it all.
*If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting a place without really wanting to take that dream into reality, please check out my poem, “The Missing.”
And if you have ever returned to a place you once called home, please read on below for my reflections on a visit to a place I once called home, and a more personal side of Diverse in the City®.
Returning Home from Home
Have you tried returning to a place you once called “home” that at the time, was “away?”
Of course there will be changes. No place remains frozen in time, regardless of whether we left or stayed.
I lived in Denmark for 2 years about a decade ago. Each time I return, more has changed both without and within me.
On this last trip back, I felt less like a former resident and more like a tourist who secretly had insider knowledge. My focus shifted faster from twinges of sadness for what was no longer there, to curiosity and appreciation for new developments and discoveries. And when something familiar met me with an open door, it felt like time collapsing into itself again.
I was both in the “now” and “then,” at the same time.
🎥 Returning feels like watching a movie multiple times. Sure, we know what happens and how it ends, but each time we view it, we see it from where and when WE stand, at the time.
Maybe we pick up on different details. Maybe our point of view shifts or expands. But just as 100 people watching the same movie essentially saw 100 slightly different movies, so does each visit back change the story just a bit.
In my story, Copenhagen taught me a lot but had also been a lonely place for me at times, even though (or in part because) I kept super busy. I was a full-time student in a master’s program and worked 2 part-time jobs. I had love and companionship, but a growing sense of right life, wrong place.
Hanging on is not the same as connecting (whether to a person, a place, or ourselves).
And on this trip back, we continued our tradition of returning to our old apartment and looking up at the balcony from across the street. Back then we had a small dog and the balcony had slots in the railing where he could slip through. So we doggie-proofed it with some plexiglass. That apartment has gone through various owners since us, and still the plexiglass barrier remains.
That constant always makes me smile.
But every visit I would feel a bit of sadness as I peered through the balcony door into the living room. I would remember lonely days looking out from the sofa at the “impenetrable gray bubble” that was the Danish sky. And I would remember feeling a “me” that was trapped behind a language I couldn’t yet speak, and a “respect for my host country” I hadn’t yet properly balanced against “respect for myself.”
But not this time.
This time I saw my newly-married, back-to-school self who left her career in NYC as a lawyer, sitting at her laptop on that sofa and ACE-ing her master’s program. I saw the woman who went out and landed not one but TWO part-time jobs without speaking the language OR having any connections. I saw a woman who could do hard things. In hard places. During hard times.
That was me. And still is.
And then I treated that woman to ice cream (as you can see in the photo).
I like to think it’s no accident that with so many places having changed, this little ice cream shop was still there. I used to go on days when I felt particularly homesick, sit there by myself, and let the loneliness keep me company in a different setting.
Because loneliness doesn’t just get left behind.
It needs to be understood and sent away kindly, which I ultimately did. And for the record, loneliness isn’t solitude. Loneliness sits next to us whispering secrets that keep us disconnected. Solitude is a comforting lap we sit in that embraces us and lets us connect with ourselves, so we can open up to the right connections.
Thank you Copenhagen for the lessons, the challenges, the triumphs, and the ice cream . 🍨
These are my well-reflected upon but unedited thoughts on returning home from home.
If you saw yourself in any of it, please let us know.