I considered making the theme song to this Whitney Houston’s “I will always love you” but it is much too sentimental. I think Kane Brown’s “I used to love you sober” is probably a bit more accurate.
“So what is it like to be back?” my friend asked me as we sat outside in the salty air.
“Hard,” was my simplified answer, but what else would I say when returning to a place that was once home.
Galveston, or Galvetraz as I call it, is a barrier island off the coast of Texas. The island is an odd blend of Caribbean tropical and Tex-Mex. It had a once glorious past that the old, rich families like to re-live. The summers are always 90 degrees and 90% humidity. The fall brings wave after wave of hurricanes that sends the residents fleeing like rats. The streets empty in the winter when the tourists find other places to squat. Most of the residents are associated with the University of Texas Medical Branch in some form or fashion. This was home for most of my 20s.
On paper, my CV to be specific, I got my first job out of college at UTMB as a research assistant in a lab. I later went to medical school there. I graduated and moved on. It looks quite neat and professional. Simple. The real story is a bit messier.
Galveston is where I went while I figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I took classes in psychology. I totaled a car that wasn’t mine. I competed internationally as a triathlete. I got a dog. I ran my first marathon which would set me on the path to run in the Olympic Trials. I was poor. I wanted to be an anthropologist but chickened out and went to medical school instead. I survived Hurricane Ike. I made friends but now mostly wonder what happen to them. I fell in love and broke up, twice. I left Texas determined to never look back pretending that Hurricane Ray didn’t actually do any damage.
Leaving Galveston also coincided with the start of residency in Tucson. After three years of literally being lost in the desert, I emerged with a profound sense of loneliness as most of my friendships had withered. I didn’t even spend the holidays with my family. By the time I finished, the only thing I had was running and a job I didn’t like. I ran a lot.
Then I made a decision. It was time to reconnect and seek forgiveness where needed. I can’t change what happened but I could have done things better and people would not have been hurt. In retrospect, I can better appreciate my own insecurities that led to many of my choices. It was compounded by my underappreciated wanderlust that has been present since I left home at 17 to spend a year in Spain. Considering my present circumstances, a certain restlessness may be a life long affliction.
Galveston was the first stop on the tour. Most of the people I know there have left but I was uneasy being back in the place where it all started. Perhaps the same insecurities still haunt me as I have been surprised and utterly relieved by the warm, enthusiastic greetings I have been met with through Galveston, Houston and on to Nashville. Rarely have I felt so blessed to have a second chance. Looking forward to many more reunions this trip.