I spent much of last week back at my parents’ house, and it gave me a new perspective on my lifelong love/hate relationship with my hometown. There is nothing wrong with Birmingham, I was just asking too much of it. That’s why I had to move somewhere larger, with more to offer: More shops full of old clothes—like Brick Lane, where I got the best fleece-lined denim jacket the other day. More museums and art galleries, where there is constantly something intriguing to see. Every musician and band I love is almost guaranteed to come to London, and when they do, it will take nothing more than a short ride on the tube to see them. In comparison with all this, my hometown is severely lacking.

Being home feels so different now. Because I no longer feel trapped there, I can tell the things I love that I love them. Last week the huge park by my house, in which I have walked countless times, was properly autumnal, all fiery leaves on the trees and on the ground, damp earth, and misty breath. I went for walks in the dark evenings (there’s always light in London) and had bubble baths every day and the sky was actually clear and the streets were marginally quiet and everything was exactly where it had been before but I could feel distant enough to appreciate it all.

I wasn’t my usual neurotic self; I felt more like a floater, belonging in two places at once—or belonging nowhere, feeling obligated to no specific place. Since neither place is my only home, I don’t need either of them to be my everything. I no longer demand perfection from any one town. And anyway, each place achieves its own perfection on its own, without me hanging around trying to make something out of what sometimes can feel like nothing.

I wasn’t feeling sentimental during this visit; I had no desire to visit my old haunts like a ghost. My memories didn’t capture me, because I have a present now and am not pining over the past. London has enabled me to be the person that I feel I am meant to be, while I still hold within me, at my core, a sense of my hometown. ♦