We all know the turn of phrase "Home is where the heart is." And it's a rather simple but undeniably true sentiment that most people feel at some time or another, whether towards a city, a neighborhood, or an apartment. And the connection you feel to your hometown is perhaps the first instance of this inherent protection of and pride for a place. You know it’s not perfect–it can even be a little embarrassing at times–but you love it nonetheless; like a kid brother. That's how I’ve always felt about Paducah.
So what happens when your heart is displaced from what it has known for 18 years? Ask any college student who has just finished her freshman year. The heart adjusts. New skylines, spaces, and people become the comforts you were so used to, and often seem to outdo the quiet charm of our small town. When I left my New York campus this May for the summer, it was reluctantly. Of course, it wasn’t just the city I would miss–the friends I'd made, the dorm room that had become a place of solace, and my favorite spots to do homework or get ice cream all made up the experience of falling in love with my new home.
I knew that in the first few weeks of summer I would be rather emotional about leaving the school I love for three full months, so I hoped that the familiarity of Paducah would preoccupy me, and welcome me with open arms. I expected everything to be the way it was when I left nearly a year before, but, of course, that wasn’t the case. Life goes on, evolving daily–even in a slower-paced town like ours. And though it sounds sad, I don’t feel that I fit into Paducah – as I know it – anymore. I feel a bit like an outsider, like I’m on the edge of a great secret that the whole town knows.
Truthfully though, it's not a sad feeling, it’s intriguing, and I guess that is on account of my impermanency. I’m glad that Paducah is growing and changing, and that its people are flourishing along with it, because I am too. The fact that I don't see my hometown with the same naïve eyes means that I have matured greatly in this year of college. I am a different version of myself, returning to a home that is also changed. But now I can experience Paducah anew, come to love it as an adult, and revel in its temporary comfort.