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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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