Beyond Room 119

Growing pains

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There have been so many times in the past two months that I’ve thought, “Oh, that’s a great thought/idea/concern/sore spot for me to unpack later. I’m excited to do that.” And then packing up my life and selling my furniture became a priority, then moving across the country took priority, then settling into this new place became important. Needless to say, there have been far too many introspective moments that I’ve put off in the last month or so.

It’s been nineteen days since I left North Carolina and two weeks to the day since I drove into southern California. In those fourteen days since I’ve arrived, I’ve been to the beach a total of 10 times, I’ve played with my nephews five times, I’ve seen my new niece three times, and my sister has visited from south county both weekends. In between, I’ve seen my mom, my dad, my grandparents, three of the brothers, and my one college friend who lives in town. I’ve worked a total of seven days so far and started to build relationships with the seven people in my office. I’ve gone on five runs and two bike rides.

All in all, it’s been a busy couple of weeks. This afternoon might be the first time I’ve had more than a half hour to sit and breathe.

The silence is deafening.

In the silence, I look at the North Carolina license plate that sits crooked against my desk, missing its old home on my silver Camry. I see reminders of the friends and communities that I willingly left everywhere around me – the photo collage, the bracelet, the leftover snacks from my road trip with notes lovingly still attached to them, emails from dear friends, and more. I hear my mother’s voice saying, “You know, everyone’s been asking me and I’m wondering it, too. Why did you choose to leave that beautiful place?!” On my runs, I marvel at the intense lack of greenery in the neighborhoods. At work, I haven’t put up any of the pictures of my friends that were in my old office yet because I’m afraid that looking at them will make me cry. On my drives home from work, sometimes the “what if’s” start to creep in. In those moments, the thought inevitably makes its way to the surface: did I make a mistake?

I think I’ve been running away from the silence because I was afraid of where it might take me.

Teaching in rural North Carolina and all the struggles, doubts, and difficulties that came with it used to be the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life. By now, moving from North Carolina to California ties with it. I knew this would be hard. I look back in my journal from this spring as I was job hunting, and I wrote about how I knew it would be painful, lonely, and difficult. But I don’t think anything could have prepared me for this.

I miss North Carolina with my whole heart. I miss the greenery and the trees. I miss my rose garden, my favorite museum, and all my favorite running routes where I processed so much of life. I miss southern hospitality and the easy drawl of the South. I miss the empty roadways and the downtown that I love so much. Above all, I miss all my people. I can’t even list them here because that would be too hard.

I’ve been processing these emotions with a few people and they’ve had a lot of wisdom that spoke to my heart. One friend told me that when you have multiples homes, you’re always homesick. Another reminded me that although I love so many people in North Carolina, I made this move because there are people I love here too, and I decided it was their turn. Yet another told me that effort is never wasted – even if a plan doesn’t seem to turn out as I hoped, in the end there will be some good that comes from it. Others have stepped in during my times of doubt to remind me of the reasons why I chose to come here and the validity and presence of those reasons, even in the darkness. Through it all, I’ve felt so much love and support from so many people.

I know good will come from this. I’ve already seen the smiles on my nephews’ faces as I walk in their house and pepper them with kisses for the second time that week or I show one of them the book I brought to read before bedtime. I felt the happiness radiating from my grandparents when I visited them yesterday and promised to be back soon, instead of in six or eight months. It was strange but wonderful to say goodbye to my sister today and promise to connect in person sometime next month. I’ve noticed the peace I feel anytime I sit and stare at the majestic ocean, a mere two miles from where I live now.

I know the pain will fade. I know I’ll find my communities here and build meaningful relationships here. I know that reconnecting with the family will take time but it will be worth it. I know I came here for a reason, even if I don’t know all of the reasons. These things I know, and I believe them with all my heart.

But man, does it hurt. In a way, I know it’s a beautiful kind of pain. It’s a pain of belonging, of deep friendship, of love, of home. It wouldn’t hurt this much if I hadn’t invested so strongly and cared so much about the people in my life. I wouldn’t feel like this if I hadn’t made any efforts to make North Carolina home. I loved my time there and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. If this is what I get in exchange for those incredible, beautiful years, well, I guess I’ll take it.

One of my favorite quotations to revisit in times of hurt is from C.S. Lewis:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

To love is to be vulnerable. To put yourself out there means to get hurt. To get scars. To put any kind of effort at all out there means that at some point, at some time, we will care, and in caring, we will inevitably get hurt.

To love fiercely, to live deeply, and to enjoy the moment – this is what I have done for years and this is what I will continue to do. New state, new challenges, new adventures, new people, same girl. To quote Desiree, one of my spunky but determined students from five years ago:

Let’s do this.

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