The other day I discovered the joy of returning somewhere familiar. For me, one who is constantly hell-bent on the discovery of new and interesting things, it was a mild shock to feel happy in a place that I had been many times before. As a rule, I avoid doing the same thing twice whenever I can. If the fancy strikes me to turn left instead of right on my journey home, to get lost and discover a hidden corner of my city, I will always take the chance. That’s just who I am.
So I am puzzled by this sense of joy. I’m sure I have experienced it before, how could I not? It’s just that it’s been so long since I last felt it, it takes me by surprise. I think I feel this way when I return to Michigan, to my grandmother’s house, my aunt’s house. This time, it was a cave in Derbyshire I have visited many times throughout my time in the UK that elicited the feeling. The cave seemed so big and scary the first few times, when I did not know it as I do now. This time, it felt like an old friend; I knew the bends and slopes, the drips and boulders. I knew where the bolts were on the walls for rigging, I knew which knots to use. I knew exactly how far I was from the surface at any given moment. This is not usually how I feel in a cave, because most of the time I’m visiting it for the first time, going off a written or verbal description to know when to turn, where the pitches are.
I think I am secretly very pleased that a wanderer like me can feel this way about a place. I’ve been drifting for years now, it seems, and a touch of familiarity grounds me, makes me feel sane. Humans don’t really like it when everything in their lives are constantly in flux, like any creature really. We’re homebodies, creatures of habit. Sometimes I wonder if my wanderlust is born out of my life situation, rather than an inherent quality of mine. Then again, I could never give up exploring. I think in a perfect world I would have a balance of both adventure and familiarity.
With graduation on the horizon, and new beginnings to consider, familiarity slips away. The joy of returning somewhere familiar might be a naught but distant glimmer… When will I feel it again?