Since my graduation from college, I lived in Michigan for only a little over two years. Three years of law school in Alabama, then those few years back home, and now two years and counting in Reno. Realistically, I don’t think I’ll leave Reno for good, probably ever. My job that I love is here. My boyfriend that I love is here. Eventually, I expect, we’ll get married and start a family of our own here. I’m a registered Nevada voter. This year I’ll be trading in my soon-to-be-expired Michigan driver’s license for a Nevada one. But if you look back on that second sentence, you’ll notice that I still instinctually refer to Michigan as home, because in my heart, it still is.
I wouldn’t wish the kind of homesickness I had in my first year of law school on anyone. It was deep, draining. It was like a constant low-level hum…even when I wasn’t actively aware of it, it was still there, always in the background, coming to the forefront when everything else was quiet and lonely. And there was an awful lot of loneliness. I didn’t know a soul south of the Mason-Dixon when I moved down to Alabama. I spent my time on the phone with my friends, whoever would pick up the phone, cried about how much I missed Michigan and all the familiar people and things I loved. I tried to drown the loneliness and homesickness in drinking, always more, until I was able to pour 10 drinks into my 5’2″ frame and stay standing, stay semi-coherent even, and inappropriate sex, not for fun but to make the hum stop for a little while. It didn’t work. Somehow it evened out after that first year. Three months of Michigan summer dried me out, restored my equilibrium. There was plenty of drama and heartache ahead for me in those last two years in Alabama, but I never again sunk to the same lows. The hum receded, still present but never quite as loud as it had been. I left Alabama four days after I graduated.
The two years I spent back in Michigan after law school were simultaneously horrible and wonderful. On the one hand, that was the time I was logging 12 hour days in the library studying for the bar, then spending months and months looking for work and increasingly despairing that I would never find it, and when I did, I was professionally unsupported and sexually harassed. When I think about that part of it, I wonder how I got through so much misery. But on the other hand, I was back with the people I love. My mom, my dad, my sister. Kailey, Crystal, Patrick. And the places! Ann Arbor, my mom’s lake house, my grandpa’s place in the Upper Peninsula. The things that were so familiar that they felt like putting on an old broken-in pair of shoes. Meijer’s. Vernors. Taking the empty Vernors back to Meijer’s to get money for can and bottle return. Party stores. Days out on the boat, the incredible sunsets over the water. Ice-skating on that same lake in the winter on the oval track my our neighbors at the end of the bay have been plowing the snow off since I was a kid. Knowing off the top of my head the best sandwich place in town. Being guaranteed to run into someone I went to high school with at the Zukey Lake Tavern. The rhythms of life were comforting, so easy to fall right back into like I’d never left. You underestimate it, until you leave home. How good it feels to not have to think, to just know.
And then, of course, I ran to Reno to escape the bad parts of living in Michigan, to escape the dream I’d had of being a lawyer that had turned sour and started to suffocate me. It was never supposed to be more than a temporary exit. I’ve come to really enjoy living in Reno, it’s a great city, but it’s not Michigan. Life here moves on a different schedule. I don’t know I-80 the way I know US-23. I don’t anticipate the turns of McCarran like I do on the sections of M-36 that run through Hamburg and Pinckney. I’m used to the sight of slot machines in gas stations and grocery stores by now, but it still feels not quite right. I’ll get there, probably, over time. Time will do what it always does and erode the edges off. I’ll call Nevada home and mean it. But I’m not there yet, and damn do I miss being home.