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When You're Home but Can't Go Home


From the air, LA is a massive grid of never-ending sprawling lights. I remember the first time I saw it, a 22-year-old kid, face pressed up to the window, marveling at how big it was.


I grew up in the suburbs of New York City, where the grid is compact with buildings that seem to touch the sky. Then I lived in Boston, a city I could walk from end to end. I had never imagined that a city could look like LA.


On that first visit, my friend Julie picked me up at the airport. She drove down dark roads for what felt like hours until she made a left and a magical wall of sparkling lights appeared in front of us.


"Is that the Hollywood Hills?" I asked. "How did you know that?" she asked.


I didn't know how I knew it. I didn't know anything except that I felt a hum in my veins. An electric excitement I'd never felt about New York. My body knew before my brain (It always does!) that I was home.


During the following 26 years in LA, I lived, loved, and experienced wildly fun, joyful, sobering, enlightening, and heartbreaking things. And every time I left, when I flew back, I felt that same electric excitement upon first sight of that grid. I looked forward to it so much that I always booked a window seat on the right side of the plane.


Until 2021, when I came back to LA to pack up and leave. At that point, for me, it felt like the pandemic had stripped the city of its magic and I knew it was time for me to go. And after 10 months of traveling and snorkeling in Bonaire, relaxing in the mountains of Vermont, following the fun people in Ireland, and exploring the bounty of Sonoma County, California, I recently returned to LA to visit friends.


As I took this picture, I realized it was the first time in 27 years that I was landing at LAX and I was not going home. I wasn't headed to Mansfield, my house, the beach shack, or my apartment. I was home but I couldn't go home.


That was pretty freakin' weird.


But I did notice in my belly, in my spine, and in the smile on my face, the excitement of seeing the sprawling grid was back. The magic of spending time with people I love in the city I love was enough.


Have you ever gone "home" but couldn't go home? If so, how did it feel?




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6 Comments


I've always wondered what people call "home".... is it the place you live now? is it the place you grew up? is it the place you have lived the longest? I think there's a transition at some point in your life where 'home' is no longer the place you grew up (and your parent(s) might still live) but the place you live now. I remember being in my early 20s and saying I was going 'home' for Thanksgiving when in actuality that was no longer my home.

I've always liked the proverb 'home is where the heart is'... as someone who has moved many times and lived in all 4 corners of the US it resonates with me. wherever yo…


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Suzanne Casamento
Suzanne Casamento
Apr 16, 2022
Replying to

I call it “Los Angeles“ when I’m overseas and people ask where I’m from. But people in LA call it “LA.”


I love the idea that home is where the heart is. And I too referred to visiting my childhood home as “going home” until I was almost 30. Funny how we do that.

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And boy oh boy was it a fun time seeing you!

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Suzanne Casamento
Suzanne Casamento
Apr 14, 2022
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I had a fabulous time with you! Thank you.

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I've moved 21 times. The places I lived in at least three years felt like home if I liked it. Moving that often teaches you how to "home" quickly and easily.

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Suzanne Casamento
Suzanne Casamento
Apr 14, 2022
Replying to

21 times? Wow. Yes, you must have learn to home easily.

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