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Wednesday, September 27, 2023


Kelly’s Korner: the uncomfortable reality of returning home

For the average UH student who did not grow up in Houston, there comes a time — whether it be during the routine monthly room cleaning or the 30-minute drive to the local store — when one realizes that this congested, loud and crazy city is home.

While hometowns will always have a certain place in our hearts, belongings and memories slowly begin to become Houston-oriented. However, when one finally does go back after many months away, hometowns seem to become the jealous ex who, seething from the breakup, decides to bombard you with the awkward reality of returning home.

The overwhelming excitement of parents over your return. The pure joy apparent on your parents’ faces as you pull into the driveway is that of a child’s after they drew a beautiful work on a wall: naïve enthusiasm. Little does the child realize the mother is not pleased that she now has to bleach the wall. Little do the parents remember you were a pure headache in high school. So full of hormones and teen spirit. Bless their hearts.

Most personal items have been relocated. Whether your personal belongings followed you to college or were moved into a dark, Harry Potter-esque corner of some closet, they are no longer where they once were. Mindlessly reaching for the beloved tchotchke of a china cat carelessly playing with a red ball of yarn, you instead are met with an alarm clock. Surprised that alarm clocks still exist outside of cellphones, you are overcome with disappointment and confusion.

The majority of hometown friends have moved. Most high school graduates fly the nest shortly after graduation, but your high school friends weren’t supposed to. Partially wishing that they happily sit among the twigs, feathers and trash of the metaphorical hometown bird’s nest, you are upset to find that they no longer reside in the house that became yours over years of best friendship. How dare they move away to have a life and be successful.

Things in the city have changed. Maybe your favorite restaurant or café has been reconstructed into a brothel — or maybe something less dramatic, such as the café no longer selling chocolate-covered biscottis. These simple consistencies were the only sign of the good in the world. “Thanks, Obama.”

Things in the city have not changed. The homeless man on the corner still knows you as “The Girl Who Can Never Spare Change.” I’m sorry, homeless man — I only carry a credit card. Oh, you have a Phone Swipe now? Some things do change. I guess I can spare a little … do you accept American Express?

Asking a parent’s permission to go out. For months you have lived on your own. You are used to eating, drinking, sleeping and leaving whenever you please. Sometimes that could be at 2 a.m. for a Whataburger run or at 2 p.m. when you finally decide to start the day. However, while under the parents’ roof, what you wish to do has to go directly through them. Word of advice: don’t even attempt to play the “You can’t tell me what to do. I’m an adult now. I can do what I want” card that is overplayed in pithy teen movies. It will not work, and you will probably get hurt in the process.

Running into someone from high school. This is always a thoroughly awkward event because, unless you were BFFs in high school, the odds are that you have no desire to speak to or even see this person. It’s not necessarily that they were your enemy, but they know too much. They were present when you had braces, frizzy hair, glasses — and not the popular, hipster ones — and a Liz Claiborne backpack. There is no reason to be reminded of those harsh visions.

Senior staff columnist Kelly Schafler is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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