Sleeping in my Teenage Bedroom
Updated: May 13, 2020
As I write this, I am laying on my childhood bed in my teenage bedroom. It's Monday night. Behind me on the wall is a world map I bought at Barnes & Noble when I was 16 and I remember staring at it for hours, my favorite songs on repeat, looking at the spaces between countries and the distance from Wisconsin to Italy and how many places I hoped to cross off. I’d been to almost every state and Mexico when I bought the map. Guatemala was on the horizon and I could only dream of Italy and the rest of Europe I hoped to see, let alone the rest of the world. Now I am 21 and I’ve been to 10 countries and lived in two. My not-so-little-anymore brother is graduating from high school in TWO DAYS over FaceTime with his teachers because we are in the midst of a global pandemic and the world continues to spin, despite my dizziness at the tilt of it.
Ever since I left my hometown, honey sweet Viroqua nestled in the heart of the Driftless region with art and kindness dripping from every corner, it’s been hard for me to come back. I am beyond lucky to have grown up here. I feel grateful every time I see someone I know on the street, every time I feel safe out alone at night, and every time I reminisce on what spending youth and adolescence here was like. It is a comfort like no other to walk into the Viroqua Food Co-op with my dad, give the cashier our owner number and have him say, “Oh, you're the daughter that went to Germany aren’t you?” And yet, an uncomfortable tension settles somewhere in the pit of my stomach every time I visit.
Much like pulling on an old sweater I haven’t worn in years, or re-reading a journal I finished writing in long ago, it feels like stepping into a river I stepped out of in a different life time: it cannot and will not ever be the same river again. We’ve all heard that phrase a million times: You can’t step in the same river twice. Neither the river nor you will be the same, and this should be expected. And it is. But no one is ever fully ready for the growing pains of young adulthood because it’s just simply impossible to prepare for.
My closet in this bedroom is still collaged with magazine clippings I cut out with an old friend in 6th or 7th grade, and my walls are still painted two different blues in the shape of waves because I went surfing for the first time at 13 and wouldn’t shut up about it, so my parents put the ocean in my room. My bookshelf is half empty now but I still have overflowing stacks of printed out photos, notebooks filled to the brim and a few stuffed animals on the top shelf guarding my space. I still have boxes of old letters and movie ticket stubs and county fair wristbands above what is now storage for the suits that don’t fit my dad anymore. The room is much emptier than it ever was when I lived here. My bedroom in my first apartment when I moved out was much bigger than this and the second one much smaller, and the one I live in now is somewhere between the two. I still tie the same ribbons in my hair but I wear more of the color black now. I still put glitter on my face and let the paint stay on my arms long after the canvas has dried but I no longer hold onto every feeling that lands on my spine. Sometimes I blame my nostalgia for this place on the fact that my zodiac sun sign is cancer and if you don’t think astrology can hold any weight you should think about the fact that we have broken down the illusionary division of the passing of our lives into “years”, “weeks”, “months”, and “days”.
This morning my dad and I went for a 3 mile walk down the road that we live on with our energetic pup Delilah running ahead of us. She is a golden ball of energy and sunshine and when she’s not running around the yard chasing birds she just wants to snuggle all day. She ran ahead and we walked and talked about how the road used to seem longer and the parts of the hills I used to climb and the way the valley looks at sunrise. My dad walks 4 miles every morning before 9 am and hasn’t had a drop of alcohol in over 900 days and I am proud of him. My mom has been organizing the house and herself both physically and emotionally and I am proud of her. My brother is about to complete high school and I am SO proud of him.
Maybe it’s the concept of visiting this place that brings an uneasy feeling to the roots of my hair. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s not fully home anymore, and nowhere else has filled that role yet either. I have many homes all over the world but none of them are perfect or comfort every part of my soul. Or maybe they all do and that’s why I can’t sleep easily these days.
Much like trees being transplanted, roots torn up and then finding hold in new soils, so is the wandering life I have lived thus far. I couldn’t see it any other way, but it takes a steady core to lift your feet so many times. It takes an inner calm that I’m still working on building.