Much of the summer sports hoopla has been around LeBron’s return to Cleveland. After four years and two championships in Miami, LeBron is coming home to the team that drafted him and the city that raised him.
At the age of 16, talented FC Barcelona and local boy Francesc “Cesc” Fabregas left the sunny Catalan coast of Spain for an opportunity with English Premier League side Arsenal.
Fabregas progressed rapidly through the ranks and got consistent first team action during the 2004-2005 campaign, his second year with the team. He continued to impress and cement himself into Arsene Wenger’s starting 11. So impressive was his play that early in the 2008 season, he was made team captain at only 20 years old.
In the summer of 2010, rumors intensified that Cesc’s former club, FC Barcelona, was keen on bringing the World Champion back to the Camp Nou. Although he stayed at Arsenal for the 2010 season, the writing was on the wall. The following summer, Cesc Fabregas came home to be reunited with his boyhood club and to play under his idol, Pep Guardiola.
While his homecoming was widely popular with the fans and players, his three years at Barcelona produced mixed results. Pep and his successors called for technically gifted players that were quick with the ball and stayed in position. While Cesc was technically gifted (and considered one of the best in the world at his position) he had a tendency to roam high up the pitch, thus leaving the defense exposed.
He was an anarchic player playing in orderly system. This was in contrast to his time at Arsenal, where he was given the liberty to play up high, knowing that his teammates would cover for his absence. As hard as it was to admit, Cesc was a round hole in Barca’s square peg. He may have been born in Barcelona and had “Barca in his DNA” but his playing style had been forged in London, and he no longer fit the Barca mold.
Cesc’s stay in Barcelona finally ended in June of 2014, when heralded manager Jose Mourinho brought him over to Stamford Bridge and Chelsea FC for a fee of 33 million Euro. The Portuguese coach commented that Cesc “was the missing piece to the Chelsea engine.” And unlike Pep or the other Barca managers, Mourinho knows EXACTLY where to use his new #4.
“For Barça he was the fake nine, the number ten and winger but I know and he knows what is his best position so he is giving exactly what we need. Quick thinking in midfield. He brings people in the same direction. I am really happy.”
Cesc’s homecoming didn’t have a fairytale ending, and he wound up leaving home AGAIN. The trouble with going home is that it’s not what you expected. You’ve been changed by life, by your adventures at school, work or travels. You expect to come back and see that the city has changed too. But that’s not the case.
When I moved back home after SDSU in 2010, I expected to come back and show Modesto that I had grown and was ready to contribute. After all, isn’t that what you do after you graduate? You come back and give back! But the trouble was that the city had not changed, I had changed.
But as Kareem Adbul Jabar points out, “in our disillusioned mind, “home” becomes a romanticized symbol of our innocence, in which we dreamed limitlessly and were loved unconditionally. But that home, too, has changed because of our absence.”
Similarly to Fabregas, the romanticism of coming home soon made way for the frustrating reality. It was painful and hard to realize, but I wasn’t a fit for Modesto. The city was conservative, with established industries and a certain way of doing things. My ideas and thirst on entrepreneurship, technology and leadership were like checkers pieces on a Monopoly game board.
They didn’t fit nor make sense. Had I been adamant about real estate, law enforcement or agriculture I would have been a great fit. But my ideas on work and life were forged by years spent outside of the city and outside of the country.
My optimism and hope for my hometown were soon buried under a sense of resentment and anger. In addition to it’s conservative (economic) values, Modesto, and the neighboring cities, took the biggest hit from the Great Recession. Businesses were closing, jobs weren’t hiring, and it seemed like I was going to get stuck in a cycle of under and unemployment.
It was painful. Not just because of the economic hard times myself, my family and millions of people were going through, but what also hurt was that my homecoming wasn’t going to work out. I loved my hometown wanted to be a part of it’s fabric. I had “209” in my DNA!
Modesto was the city that both believed in me yet impeded my progress. It wanted me to succeed, but it didn’t have anything to offer me. Similarly, I couldn’t sacrifice my hard work and ambitions to fit into the city’s system. I was Cesc Fabregas and Modesto was FC Barcelona.
Modesto will always fill the concept of “home.” But with my travels and goals, home nowadays seems to be wherever I am. As Thomas Wolfe so eloquently writes in his aptly named “You Can’t Go Home Again” (also referenced by Abdul Jabar in his brilliant essay noted above)
“…who was never so assured of his purpose as when he was going somewhere on a train. And he never had the sense of home so much as when he felt that he was going there. It was only when he got there that his homelessness began.”
The paradox of leaving (again) in 2012 was that I wouldn’t be where I am now had it not been for the values and lessons instilled in me during my 19 or so years of growing up in the Central Valley. In the end however, while I will visit Modesto every chance I get, I can never really go home again.
This post originally appeared on entrepreneur.com