My husband and I have been married a little over six months now… and yeah, that’s still weird to say. It seems to me that much of our generation is having a hard time picturing ourselves as “grown-ups,” which is probably not unique to our generation, but we feel like it is our personal struggle because we’ve got social media and Buzzfeed to document and hashtag it. I won’t claim to be immune to any of that, but as a nod to an older time and in a show of solidarity, I did change my last name to my husband’s. It was a very “grown-up” decision I would absolutely make again, but it’s a part of the newlywed experience that is still a bit foreign. It’s a constant reminder that life will never be exactly the same again – and it’s never the most common occurrences that are the most jarring. My new “teacher name” (Mrs. New Last Name instead of Ms Old Last Name, but always with the same, slightly whiny tone) washes over me as it constantly comes in waves. Signing my name isn’t difficult… unless I can’t remember whether or not I’ve had time to change that particular account yet. No, it’s always the little things that still stop me in my tracks: the new name on a prescription from the pharmacy staring at me in its bold, all-caps official way; the new introduction as “my wife, Amanda” at a social gathering, or the subtly surprising pangs of nostalgia when I encounter a piece of my “old,” pre-husband life.
I don’t run into my past self too terribly often since we’ve been together almost four years now and we’ve integrated our lives fairly smoothly. But once or twice a year, we go visit my parents in my hometown. It’s an objectively terrible place to be most of the time; there is absolutely nothing for a visitor to do there in the winter (and we are always there for Christmas) so I usually spend most of the visit worried that my husband may leave me over some idiot thing a family member said, or perhaps just out of sheer boredom. I always feel like I’m the less interesting one in our relationship, so in the craziness that comes at the end of a ten-hour drive, I worry that maybe it will just take him seeing me in my natural habitat for him to realize the error of his ways and leave me sobbing on my parents’ doorstep.
That’s the thing, though… It IS my natural habitat. My head understands every argument against EVER living there again, and believe me, I still never will – due to the abysmal, unrelenting cold if nothing else – but my heart still aches every time we leave because subjectively, there is so much to do there. Memories lurk in every closet, around every corner, and even where I’d least expect them, embracing me in a rare and bittersweet familiarity until the car door slams and it’s time to go because it’s no longer solely my choice to stay. It’s a very odd kind of heartache, too, being torn between things you love and knowing that they are mutually exclusive. Not the kind you experience when you’re single and pining, or when you’re dating and waiting… This is a gentler, fleeting, yet more profound kind of hurt.
It’s an experience made more difficult because it’s a feeling my husband – the person who knows me best in the world and is often nearly identical to me – cannot understand. I was a transplant before our relationship began, so this is really only a new iteration of the journey that began for me when I moved away for college. But this life we have created together is more a permutation of his past because we still live where he grew up, basically. He doesn’t have to get nostalgic for home – in fact, he never gets the chance because we see his parents almost every week. It’s not often that we have these disconnects (we are quite happily married for numerous reasons, after all) but when it does happen, that just makes it all the more lonely.
Now we’re looking to buy a house of our own – yet another definition of home – and that prospect is terrifying on an entirely different level. My head swims with the names of financiers and inspectors, and I’ve developed an irrational fear and hatred of Homeowner’s Associations. Yet, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of hope. Perhaps this is the step that will make it all real: the prescription bottles, the party introductions, the whole grown-up shebang. I hope it will be a place where we can showcase and harbor our strengthening marriage. I hope it will be a place with more good memories than bad ones. And most of all, I hope it will be a new place we can both be nostalgic for when we’re away, so that leaving home can truly mean coming home, regardless of the direction we’re driving.
– Amanda F.