In the past 10 years, I have lived in 11 different places. I’ve lived in 4 places in Michigan, 5 in Illinois, one in Colorado, and now I’m living in Kenya. 5 of those places were with different families (6 if you count living here at Mount Carmel). During the last 5 years, I have also travelled to about 50 different cities across the American Midwest. Needless to say, this last decade has had its high points and low points.
Maybe some of you know what it’s like to practically live out of a box (or suitcase). Sometimes it can be quite exciting, like seeing new places and acclimating to different lifestyles, or becoming a part of someone else’s family and experiencing life with people you never met before you moved in to live with them. Having to adapt to different schedules, house-rules, and access to amenities certainly makes you more resourceful and flexible. You learn different ways of seeing the world, whether global or local, and you can learn a great deal about people by being exposed to so many from various walks of life.
You also learn a great deal about yourself if you move around a lot. You realize what your limits are (physical, mental, social, etc.), and what your weaknesses are as well as your strengths. You also learn what you can’t live without; what matters most to you. Spend enough time moving around and the list of ‘can’t-live-without’s becomes smaller and smaller. You also learn what you can’t live with, and that list gets bigger and bigger as time goes on.
For me, I have come to realize an item on that ‘can’t-live-with’ list: moving around. Almost 10 years ago I was living in Colorado for almost the same amount of time I will be living in Kenya. During the months I spent there I became more and more homesick. I was living in a place that was unfamiliar, I attended a church that I never quite got comfortable with, and I had friends back home whom I missed. Although some of the elements from that time seem similar to what I am going through here in Africa, I have been experiencing quite a different sensation during my time away from home.
Rather than being what I would call ‘homesick,’ I think I am at that place in my life where I can’t keep moving around anymore. It was fun for a while, and I am very proud of my ability to pack not just for a weekend trip but for a year. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m always unpacking with the mentality of “how can I unpack this in a way that makes it easy to pack again?,” or the constant mental process of doing what I’m doing now in such a way that makes the transition to my next life-station easiest; always focused on the next step (in fact, before I let for Kenya, I was already in the process of making plans for when I return to the States). Or, perhaps it’s because I’m tired of saying ‘goodbye’ all the time. I’ve gotten so exhausted of going through the ‘farewell’ process that I became pretty good at moving out either early in the morning, later at night, or when no one is around so that I don’t have to deal with it.
Maybe the reasons don’t matter so much as the fact I have come to realize: I am ready to stop moving around. I realize that God is ultimately going to put me where he wants me, and maybe that includes more travels, but I want to be able to move somewhere and not have to think about how I’m going to pack everything up again. I want to be able to invest in a local community long-term instead of trying to not get too involved because I know I’ll be leaving that place after a short time. I want to be able to continue building the friendships I already have instead of needing to start new ones. And, for crying out loud, I want to be able to open those new sets of kitchen and dining ware that’s been sitting in my parents storage room for almost 5 years!!!!
If I am even more honest, I want to stop keeping people at arms length all the time. When I first started moving from place to place I would try and get to know the people I stayed with and lived around, but quickly learned that doing so only makes the ‘goodbye’ even harder. Perhaps it’s unfair, but I subconsciously started to keep to myself more and more so that when the time comes I can leave wherever I am and move on with as little emotional impact as possible.
During my time here, I have learned a lot about myself. And I’ve been forced to look at things in my past and present that I have tried to keep out of my memory. It’s possible that some of that will make it into a future post, but for now the one thing that keeps nagging me is the realization that I’m ready to put down roots somewhere.
Huh… it seems my last few posts have been a bit negative. I didn’t plan that on purpose – I suppose it’s just a reflection of the sobering truths I am learning during my time here!