• Finding Home in this Vagabond Generation

    I didn't move a lot when I was a child. In fact, I didn't move at all! Until I turned 18 years old, graduated high school, and set off down the road to a college 4 hours away from my home, I'd lived in the same house to which my parents brought me home from the hospital. It was a 4 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom home on a 5-acre farm in the middle of America's great prairie land near St. Louis, Missouri.

    I have so many great memories of my childhood in that house. My dad installed a swing set when I was four, and I loved swinging the lazy summer afternoons away pretending I was taking the "train to Africa" (great imagination, flawed geographical awareness). I'd sing Christmas songs in July while spinning cartwheels in my backyard and taunt the chickens in our coops (they got their karmic revenge as I tripped on the electric fence to keep them enclosed a time or two. Zap!).

    As I grew older, I'd spend afternoons after school swatting a tennis ball against our brick chimney or shooting basketball in our front driveway. I was an only child and so I enjoyed all of this activity in silence -well- off in my own thoughts, anyway, which weren't all that silent.

    Living away from home for the first time was something I avoided thinking about for as long as I could until the start of my first semester at Missouri State University arrived. With trepidation, I packed my bags, and knew that although a 4 hour drive away wasnt all that far, I would never "go home" again. I loved my freshman year at college and all the subsequent years after that. I never lived in the same dorm twice in all of my years at Missouri State. I even spent one semester of it on an exchange with the University of Nevada at Las Vegas before returning to Missouri State to graduate the following semester.

    From there I volunteered as a church missionary for a year and a half, living in a training center in Utah for the first 3 months where I learned the Russian language (the basics anyway!) in preparation for serving the Russian-speaking people of the Baltic countries (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia). I remember one day, as I looked out on row after row of Communist-style block apartments in Latvia, that I could no longer recall what a typical American subdivision looked like. And I was fine with that. I came to love the Baltics and its people. Again, I felt trepidation when my time as a missionary was up and I would go back home. What was home, anymore?

    Is it just a function of being a 20-something that causes one to be a rootless vagabond? Maybe it was just the specific life I chose for myself, but I remember lamenting more than most of my peers that I couldn't imagine really feeling at home anywhere again. I moved out to northern Utah after coming home from my overseas service in order to get a job. My roommates had just returned from the Baltics, having served as missionaries as well, and it was so relieving for us to have each other to reminisce and try to readjust to regular life again. Still, we all felt we were in a waiting period. I remember being convinced that the feeling of waiting would come to an end once I found the person I was going to marry. And once I did, a part of me did feel as though some of the waiting was over. But the search for the feeling of "home" continued.

    My husband (who also happened to be one of the missionaries I met during my time in the Baltics, but who originally hails from Pennsylvania) and I lived in northern Utah for our first year of marriage, but we agreed northern Utah didn't feel like home. Following a college acceptance letter for my husband, we packed up our newlywed belongings and headed to St George, UT, on the Arizona border.

    Despite the immediate crash of the economy and the scarcity of jobs in St George, we carved out enough of a living and even some savings to buy a very small fixer-upper. I remember thinking as we closed on that first house of ours, "Now we are putting down roots so now it will feel like home." And although we made some great friends and memories during our 4 years in St. George, our vagabond hearts still wandered and we wondered what life would be like elsewhere. St. George just didn't feel like home.

    In the final semester of his undergraduate degree, my husband conducted a nationwide job hunt. Ok, it wasnt too nationwide. Anything north of the 36th parallel was virtually ruled out as we both got used to warm winters while living in St George, haha.

    One day as we walked along a neighborhood greenway (mmm, it was the desert, so more like brownway) we got talking about Raleigh, North Carolina. Why? We both have no idea. Although I'd visited 40 of the 50 states by then, North Carolina wasnt one of them. Zak had never visited the state either. We knew one person who had served a church mission in Raleigh and liked it, but that's all we had to go on. There was something inexplicable drawing us there, and consequently my husband focused his job search efforts there.

    Soon after, he had a series of interviews with a college in Elon, NC, that seemed extremely promising. The both of us were getting very anxious to seal the deal and move already. I had the impression come to me "we will move to North Carolina." I felt 100% confident that it was going to happen and the job in Elon was going to come through. But in the end, it didn't.

    We were both disappointed, but my husband remained perseverant. A job at a TV station in Raleigh came on the radar and my husband went after it. He was flown to Raleigh for an interview soon after. While he was away for his interview, I recall riding my bike around town in St George and I saw a sign, I mean a literal sign, for a local state farm agent whose last name just happened to be Raleigh. So, I took that sign as a sign. Sure enough, my husband landed the job and we packed all our belongings into a UHaul to make the cross country journey to our new home, which we both hoped would be home at last.

    And it was, as it turns out. It is.

    Within hours of arriving, and without any connections or friends yet made, I knew this was home. I have thought about this phenomenon frequently over the past 6 years. What is this feeling of home, then? For me, anyway, it was almost as if my life had played out already and I knew the end from the beginning. This is where I would make lifelong friends. This is where I would overcome my fears of having a child and this is where that child would grow up with the friends he was meant to have. This is where the greenery from the tall, tall trees and the fresh, humid air would soothe my soul.

    It wasn't long after we moved to Raleigh that we ended up on a binge watching kick of the show called Lost. In one of the episodes, a character says something to the effect of "Maybe there is a place on earth for each of us that calls us to it. Like some sort of personal magnetic resonance. And when we find it, we will be healed." Those words sunk deep. I knew I'd found such a place.

    Don't get me wrong, I still have the whole world to see. Finding home hasn't slowed my travels or my ache to discover new lands. To be honest, Raleigh isn't the most breathtaking beauty to behold. A little seaside town in Wales or a cliffside town in Rhode Island fit the bill in that department. And I'd love to spend a whole summer or perhaps a year or two in either of those inspiring locales while focusing on a creative project, like writing a book. However, at the end of it, I know I'd want to come home to Raleigh.


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