I didn’t realize just how much I could re-discover about myself just by returning to the place I’d spent the majority of my childhood. The place I felt was truly home. Those days now seem so much easier, long before being influenced by others, their expectations, by my own insecurities. Back then, in my hometown, those things were all irrelevant, yet to come. I don’t remember ever worrying about what I’d be doing five years from now. I was never worried about having perfected college applications or how popular I was or wasn’t or whether I should send my crush a rap song to seem cool or a song I actually like but that they may find boring. My depression took up only a small part of my brain, I enjoyed family dinners and ice cream at my favorite spot after school without feeling guilty and punishing myself with exercise afterward. As I stare now, at my old front porch, at the dying flowerbed, the one my mom would spend hours watering, its flowers now wilted, with patches of bald spots like an aging man’s head…I remember how I used to walk out the door, cross the street, and knock on a big brown door. The door would open, and I’d smile as my neighbor, Will, opened it. He always knew I was there to see if he wanted to walk - or scooter - with me to the park down the street. We’d sometimes race along the sidewalk of our quiet neighborhood, lined with towering trees which blanketed the street in what I’d imagined to be these grand arches, the sunlight seeping in through the cracks in the leaves. Seventeen year-old me now walks along the same street, looking up at those arched branches, reminiscing those days, taking in a deep breath and, with a sigh of relief, stares up at those leaves, those rays of sunlight still shining through, still just as bright. The houses all remain the same mismatched colors, another thing I always loved about my neighborhood - you wouldn’t ever see two houses the same size, shape, or color. Some had crooked roofs or wonky porch steps. There were thick, long weeds poking out from the cracks in the pavement, and cats of all shapes and sizes crossing the street - they were never hit, of course - they belonged to my neighbor, who at the time was known to everyone as the ‘crazy cat lady’. She owned many, many felines and always left her windows open so they could come and go as they pleased. I always aspired to someday be just like her. The park down the street wasn’t my favorite park for the shiny swingsets or the pool i learned to swim in (but never to dive - i was always afraid of entering the deep end head first, still am..) but for its famous fallen tree. There was a large tree which lay on its side, funky looking and so big it was like a redwood had accidentally been planted in the middle of the park. And it was perfect. In those times, this tree felt like mine, and I’d climbed it since I could remember learning how to walk. Revisiting the tree felt like an old yet familiar ritual. Approaching it, I gently felt of its grooves, gliding my hand along its trunk as if it was a horse’s mane. It almost felt like one, with eyes looking into mine, and a soul that could sense what I was thinking. I had this intense sense of nostalgia as I set foot onto its base, remembering how my five-year-old self would wobble, terrified of falling from what now seemed like such a low height, walking the length of the tree like a tightrope, afraid of plummeting to what I once felt would be instant death. I almost still get chills now, like I used to all those years ago. Remembering now how brave I felt the first time I made it all the way to the end; To its branches, sitting down to enjoy what at the time felt like the most beautiful view from so far up above, but now felt like taking a seat not too far from the ground below. It wasn’t just the park i needed to revisit, though, but the church across the street, too. I’d never once set a single foot inside the quaint white chapel, but its charcoal parking lot was sacred. I’d learned how to ride a bike there, my nose running with snot as I’d let out frustrated screams and protests, telling my mom I’d be the only kid in the world who couldn’t ride a bike. I felt it was ‘too heavy’ to peddle.. all this would happen as she laughed while filming me, then contemplated submitting the video to ‘America’s Funniest’. Yet one day, as fate would have it, in the middle of that empty lot, I did it. I ditched that pink Minnie Mouse bike amd its stupid white training wheels for a real bike, in fact it was my brother’s old bike I first learned on. And maybe he rode around effortlessly in the background for all of my many tantrums, but soon of course, I caught up to him. And I wouldn’t end up as the only kid who couldn’t ride a bike, which at the time meant more than wearing certain clothes or shoes or makeup. That same lot also had a small playground of its own, one that wasn’t as shiny and new as its neighbor, but had jagged wood railings and uneven squeaky swings. But I remember sitting on those swings, trying to catch ‘lightning bugs’ and getting stung by mosquitos during the hot summers. This little corner of the world would forever and always be my corner. The most familiar place in my mind, forever imprinted in my memories. I would never forget the imperfections in the playground’s wood which gave my palms countless splinters, all those times I’d fallen running down the street while trick or treating, even the strays I came to know. This will always be my home, no matter where I go.