My family moved into 15 Wentworth Drive in December of 1996, two weeks before the birth of my little sister. In less than a month, my family will move out of it and hand the keys over to a young couple and their daughter.
People have asked me if I’m sad to say goodbye to my childhood home of 21 years. Truth be told, I’m not. If anything, I’m relieved. I haven’t lived in that house for a couple of years and I’ve rarely visited. 15 Wentworth Drive hasn’t felt like home for a long time; it’s felt more like a sponge that’s soaked up every bad and memory and feeling I’ve had over the last two decades, just waiting to drown me in all the things I’ve fought so hard to rid myself of.
As a child, I never wanted to leave Wentworth Drive. It was familiar and comfortable. But as I got older, things changed. Life entered a perpetual state of chaos. Money was an ever-present problem. Family dynamics were dysfunctional. Friends abandoned me as they realized I was unlike them. Our neighbors started to treat us like pariahs, refusing to look us in the eyes, but more than willing to gossip about us at the neighborhood get-togethers we were never invited to.
What was once a haven turned into Hell. It pretty much remained that way until I left.
When I think of 15 Wentworth, I think of the stress of not knowing how much longer we could afford staying there. I think of family fights, and how I’d stay up late and watch gay pornography in secret because I was so ashamed and afraid of being gay. I think of being the topic of conversation, of neighbors gossiping over whether or not I was gay, and neighborhood boys cringing at the thought of having ever been friends with me.
And I remember the person I used to be: that closeted kid, starved for friends and understanding, constantly camouflaging myself in a desperate attempt to be accepted, angry and resentful of my parents and how different our family was from everyone else’s. Every time I visit there, I’ve found myself slipping back into that identity. I go from easygoing to easily irritated. I feel uncomfortable and out of place. I’ve fought too hard to get away from that person to risk turning back into him.
Moving away from 15 Wentworth was the best decision I’ve ever made. It allowed me to find out who I am as a person, and how to carry myself now that I’m on my own. It’s helped me repair my relationship with family, and come to peace with a lot of my past. It’s empowered me to let go of my lame ass neighbors and their moronic gossip. It’s shown me that I’m more mature and powerful than I give myself credit for.
It’s helped me realize that I can acknowledge my past, the good and the bad, without letting it define who I am going forward.
Steve Jobs once said, “If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know it when you find it.”
Letting go of the past is scary and uncomfortable. It can be hard to part ways with toxic things without feeling like you’re giving up on something you invested too much time and energy in. Often, we inject nostalgia into places to convince ourselves they’re better than our present, or conversely, we only focus on the negative aspects of it to fuel our anger and bitterness. But sometimes we just have to let go of the past in the most objective way possible. Whether it was good or bad, we have to simply keep moving forward.
I hope the new family moving into 15 Wentworth can make it more of a home than we could. I hope the big rock in the side yard provides their child with a safe spot to play and daydream. I hope our neighbors show them a level of kindness they didn’t extend to us. And I pray they get a high-powered snow blower because that slanted driveway is a bitch to shovel.