The fireworks exploded into the air, spiraling together up, up, and up, with a high-pitch whistle until they magnificently blossomed into glowing rings of sparkling gold and red against the black night sky.
I felt the loud pop of each firework reverberate through my entire body, forcing me to be conscious of the here and now.
As I pressed up against my boyfriend’s warm body in the sticky, summer air, I couldn’t help but smile, while the pretty lights in the sky dazzled my mind.
Besides the friends that we met a mere week ago, who we were enjoying this evening with and my coworkers, my boyfriend was the only person close to me, in the entire state. Some people would say it was an irrational choice, but I’d picked up my life and moved hundreds of miles away from where I grew up, solely to be closer to my boyfriend.
Cheers of strangers surrounding me made me ponder what my loved ones, so far away, were doing. I wondered if my sister was watching fireworks from the beach and imagined my brother sitting at home with my precious dogs gazing up at the same universe that I was staring at.
I knew my best friend across the world wasn’t celebrating Independence Day the same way I was, so I pulled out my phone to share the view with her.
I turned to my right and saw my new friend snuggled up to her boyfriend, happily watching the loud explosions in silence.
It had taken months of quiet, undeniable tears, flowing out of me like an endless river, to finally be rid of homesickness. But right now, I felt grateful for this uneven exchange of places.
After enough hard moments of anguish—my chest twisting, trying to find room for my big heart—because I missed my puppy and missed my mom and missed the delicious food she made me and missed my dad nagging at me and missed being able to see any one of my friends any second of the day, I moved on.
As a glittering rocket twisted up into the same sky that thousands of beautiful people were looking up into, the realization hit me like a gentle wave—I don’t live in my childhood neighborhood anymore and I probably never will again.
Those pleasures of life, being so close to every single person I love at once (because I hadn’t traveled far enough to love so many people in more than one place when I was a naive child) are over now.
It’s time to make room for the new. I have my own apartment and I can make more friends and still call my besties from home.
Feeling at peace, I dug my toes into the soft, luscious grass and looked up over my shoulder at my amazing boyfriend, who was holding me tight. Then my new friends who were sharing the blanket with us passed me a cold, yummy beer as the grand finale set off.
I am here. This is now. I am happy.
Author: Carolyn Gladd
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock