The Reality Of Returning To The Town That You Left Behind

Coming home for Canadian Thanksgiving always leaves me feeling kind of weird. All in one weekend, I manage to spend 20 hours on a bus, eat two turkey dinners and attend at least one church service (as mandated by my mother).

Being involved in the church community always meant a lot to my family. I’m half New Mennonite, the modern version of the Mennonite denomination of Christianity. Growing up, I was surrounded by Menno circles. For our community, it’s not just about faith. Being a Menno means a whole lot more than that. We have our foods, our music, our culture. We’re a pretty tight-knit group, even though a lot of the millennial Mennonites are more culturally Menno then we are religious. We’re really into social and environmental justice and living as simply and cleanly as we can. My dad’s favorite term for use is the “Neo-Hippies”.

I was determined to go as far away as I possibly could when I left my hometown for university.

I ended up traveling 10 hours away from home, to a school that I thought would really allow me to broaden my horizons and learn in an environment very different from the small community I was part of at home.

For the first few years of school, I stayed pretty involved with the Mennonite community back home. I was really good about staying in touch with my friends and I spent my summers working at a Mennonite sleepover camp with them. I was starting to feel like I could have the best of both worlds; I could stay connected in the Mennonite community, as well as live my life at school as I pleased. I would come home and be able to jump right back into my old life, see my Menno friends, chat with families at church, and attend all the Menno parties and events.

This Thanksgiving really hit me, however. This past summer was the first year I didn’t work at the summer camp. Instead, I took an internship far from my hometown, and as a result only saw my Menno friends once, while I was up for a family vacation. I also hadn’t been home very often the previous year, and hadn’t been messaging, writing or Skyping with my friends as much.

While at the church service during the holiday break, I saw some of my old campers. They were so much bigger, singing away with the choir. I saw in them the kid I used to be, happily harmonizing with the other members of my community.

I felt like someone had sucker punched me.

I didn’t really belong here anymore. The Mennonite community is really focused on who you’re connected too within the church, and at that moment I had never felt more alone. I still had my parents, sure, but where were all my friends and childhood playmates?

I’m not the little Mennonite girl, running around playing Dutch Blitz, singing in choir or helping my grandma cook anymore. I’ve made the active choice to leave that part of my life behind me now. It will forever be a part of my, part of the person I am today, but it’s no longer the most defining part of my character. In many ways, that is a good thing. I’ve grown so much since I moved away from home and I look at the world in a much more diverse way. But no matter how happy I am in the new life I’ve created for myself, I’ll always miss my Mennonite home.

Feature Image via PINK.

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