Days when the sky is too big

I visited Oklahoma last week. It was overcast and raining when I landed at the airport, something I was grateful for. A wide blue sky would only have amplified the gnawing homesickness I felt for my immediate surroundings.

Driving under a cloudless sky is particularly oppressive. With that vast blue expanse above, everything down here feels tiny. I’m driving a tiny car to a tiny destination to do some tiny thing, and all the while, an endless blue pool stares down apathetically. A sky wide open makes me feel like one of the rare clouds that dares to puncture the monotony – isolated, small, and fleeting. These feelings are true, in a way. They’re just not great for a return to a place where everything used to feel important.

A calm, persistent rain encourages very different feelings. Rain’s mild inconvenience makes me feel like we’re all getting through together, we’re all waiting for it to blow over. We’re connected, like the mass of clouds above our heads, heads shielded by umbrellas and hoodies. That feeling of waiting out the rain is almost always better than what comes after. With a ceiling of clouds above, the world doesn’t seem to stretch on forever, and it feels like anything could be significant.

So I was glad to have rain and clouds to shield me from existential anxiety last weekend. I was glad not to be swallowed up by an infinite sky, at least not right away. Those couple of overcast days imperfectly replicated the feelings I associate with living in Norman: possibility, community, refuge.

And because of the sky and those feelings it demanded, I had a minor personal epiphany during my visit. In the two years since graduation, I’ve often wondered why other people don’t seem to miss college as much as I do. I’ve thought about that fact the Norman is the place I’ve lived the longest, and I’ve wondered if I made the wrong decision in moving away. But I’d never quite realized until this past weekend that Norman isn’t home – the University of Oklahoma is. I think I miss college more than most because college was the first period of prolonged locational and social stability in my life, and because of that, my idea of ‘home’ is tied up in an experience that is intrinsically fleeting.

Having a melodramatic personal realization during a return home, against the backdrop of gloomy, comforting weather, was like living a generic indie movie. But I do think I found some sort of closure on this visit – now I know that the feeling of home I found at OU was bound to fade whether or not I left Oklahoma after graduation. And I have hope that there’s more than one home yet to be found out there. Until then, I’ll take solace in lazy days spent waiting out the rain.

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