July 4 marked my 20 year anniversary of living in Nevada. I have officially lived half of my life at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, yet it wasn’t until this year – about one week ago – that I considered Nevada home.
I came to Nevada to attend UNR with no intention of staying after college. Cue amazing internships via The Reynolds School of Journalism that led to an equally amazing entry-level job upon graduation, wonderful friendships, a husband, a house, and children. I never left. With a full and joyful life, who would?
Nearly all of my life experience has happened in Nevada. I’ve been married. I’ve purchased homes. I’ve had two beautiful sons. I’ve been divorced. I’ve lost friends. I’ve made friends. I’ve been remarried. I’ve grown my family, my friendships, my career, and myself all in Northern Nevada. I’ve successfully navigated a lot of change. I’ve invested a lot in the community.
Yet still, I did not consider Nevada home. It wasn’t because I didn’t like the Silver State; but with no intention on staying early on, having one foot in and one foot out seemed more natural to me.
That changed a few weeks ago when I returned to my home state, Massachusetts, for the first time in four years. Rather than feeling that rush of welcomed nostalgia and excitement, I felt displaced. Things seemed unfamiliar. I had to use Google maps when driving from Logan International Airport to my parents’ house, my childhood home. The humidity I’d been raised in felt stifling. Time was limited, and although we tried to coordinate schedules, for the first time during a visit, I wasn’t able to see some of my childhood friends. I saw lot of family members, which was wonderful, but generally while I was there, I felt like I belonged somewhere else.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my visit. My boys were thrilled to spend time with their grandparents and other family members that they rarely see; and I loved seeing everything and everyone through their eyes. We had a great time at places I’d frequented growing up like Fenway, Plymouth Rock, and the New England Aquarium. But after a couple of days, I wanted to go home. It was then that I realized, after 20 years with one foot in and one foot out, Nevada is my home.
Sure, like many who travel, I missed the comforts of my physical home – being in my own space with my own things – but this time I also missed work, the weather, and my friends who know and understand me now, who make me laugh every day, and who are part of the family I created across the country.
So one week later, when the wheels touched down on the runway at Reno Tahoe International airport, the 95-degree high desert air felt a little cooler, the mountains looked a little more majestic, the Nevada sunset even more amazing, the empty freeways, and tidy, suburban neighborhoods also seemed a little less rural, a little less cookie-cutter than before. I landed with a renewed sense of appreciation for my surroundings, and it felt good. It felt comfortable and familiar. And – at least for now – it feels like home.