Wednesday, January 27, 2016

You can have Roots AND Wings

In May I will have lived in Denver for nine years. Not too bad for an accidental transplant who as a child had trouble with a week long sleep away camp. Still I often wonder, is Denver home? The answer is yes and no for as the picture says, I will never be completely home again. Rather, I have embraced the idea that I can have "roots and wings."

Last year I flew back to Indiana for a dear friend's milestone birthday party. I did what many of us who have spread our wings have done, I way overpaid for the ticket. I went back and forth about whether I could spend the money, and by the time I came to the glaringly obvious conclusion of, I want to be there - the flight prices had gone up. Still when the birthday girl hugged me, and her daughter (also my best friend) hugged me, and my parents came with me to the party, I knew I had made the right decision; the cost was the furthest thing from my mind. My Dad remarked that I seemed to know everyone at the party, and when I realized that I did it further reminded me that along the way I had become a part of their family as well as my own. There may be no greater feeling than to feel wanted and as though you belong.

It was at this party that my Dad also asked me a question that has been bouncing around in my head for quite a while now, "where do I call home?" I realized that some of it may be contextual as I say I am going home when I head toward Indiana and Denver, but I also realized that I will never again only have one home. This is also why the song, "Roots and Wings" from one of my favorite television shows, Nashville, really resonated with me.

So many places, I wanna go
So many people I wanna know
I wanna stay
I wanna leave
I want it all
I've got to believe

You can have roots and wings
You can have everything
You can know where you're from
And still wanna fly

Having roots and wings was "normal" in my family. This really started with my paternal grandparents as they were the first to move away for either side of the family. They moved a three hour car ride away, which as my Grandmom reminded me is a big help as sometimes our wings take us further away. When my parents were married, they also moved away from their parents - Durham, Nashville, Philadelphia, and now Highland, Indiana. The closest I ever lived to my grandparents was two hours, which grew to 10-12 hours when we moved to Indiana. So I thought this is what "everyone did." I ass-umed that everyone understood the fear, trepidation, and excitement that comes from spreading your wings. I also thought that others would know just how much support is required to put roots down somewhere else. When you move away from your current life, you are trying to start a brand new one some place else. It's a scary proposition.

So many choices I've gotta make
So many voices I'm trying to shake
They think they know
What's best for me
But I want it all
I've gotta believe 

You can have roots and wings
You can have everything
You can know where you're from
And still wanna fly

This assumption bubble of mine was burst when Danny asked me how far I thought the average person lives from their Mom. I said 50, well as it turns out, it's only 18 miles. Well crud. Danny, my family, and I are not as "normal" as I thought. Suddenly I understood why at times I am fighting the spoken/unspoken mindset of, "well you chose to move away, so you should be coming back to visit." I didn't even realize that this mindset existed until my Mom explained that she had to fight it with her father. I don't think as children we fully understand what our parents have gone through until we experience it ourselves. 

It is well known that I did not make the move to Indiana on my parents any easier, and it was not until I went away to college, which was really the first time I had left home that I think I began to understand how scary that move must have been for them. Still when I went to Indiana University I was only three hours away. My Mom came down to take care of me when I had pneumonia. My parents brought me home to deal with my wisdom teeth extraction, and later on my turbinate reduction (nasal) surgery. My parents helped me move everywhere, they even moved me to Denver. This is especially impressive considering they had just moved my sister out there earlier that same year.

I don't think I truly felt on my own until I moved to Denver. I even had to move myself, but I discovered the beauty of paying for movers (also worth every penny). I was now a plane ride or a really long, boring drive away from my parents and sisters (fortunately Denise and John came back to the mountains). Yet, people make that boring drive or take a plane ride to come see us with regularity. My Mom made that trip when I had a fundoplication (surgery for pronounced reflux), both my parents came to help me pick out a wedding dress, my family will be with me when I graduate in April, my grandparents got on a plane for the first time in over 20 years to come see what Colorado has to offer. My Dad attends my work place's educational offerings. Danny's parents have made the awful drive, but his Mom wised up and opted for a plane this past summer. The list goes on and on (and on). Danny and I had more than half of our wedding guests travel from all over the country to be with us. Do you think I could have lived in Denver for nine years and Danny for five without that

The other reason we have built a wonderful life here is because we have set roots of our own down here. We have been blessed through the development of a community. My fantastic sister and brother-in-law are also here, which helps tremendously because sometimes you just need your family. But you also build a family - those people who will drop what they're doing to help you. Those people who will see your hidden "bat-signal" that says, hey I just came back to town after visiting "home" and I need to know that I am loved here too. So they take you to lunch or ask you out on a girls' date. They are the people who invite you into their homes for the holidays so that you know you're not ever alone.

Nevertheless, things are not always rosy when you let your wings take you away. You miss things. A couple Christmases ago there was a scary family medical situation that I was working with my sister on via text. Danny had to stop me from driving east in the snow and hoping for the best. Or when Danny's parents have major medical surgery, and you can't be there to care for them the way you wish. Sometimes you also have to fight the attitude of "if you lived closer we would do more for you," which really just feels like "I don't support your decision to live away from here/us." There are also times where people tell you that they don't have the money to visit you, but in the same breath tell you about the 72" television that now hangs on their living room wall. It really sucks to not feel like a priority. It is also hard to know you have "x" amount of vacation time, and a finite amount of income. All this requires a balancing act of all the places you want to go with the strong desire to be with the people you love and miss terribly. Thus, you do the best you can, and prioritize those who make you a priority. You also give special kudos to people who say things like, "you're really brave" or "I am proud of you as building a life somewhere is not easy."

I think that is the biggest lesson I have learned in the last (almost) nine years: being an adult is about determining priorities. The older I get (crap, how did 34 get here so quickly) the more I have come to reciprocate prioritization. When I first started making trips "home" I tried to see everyone, do everything I wanted, and eat everything that I can't get in Denver (hello lemon rice soup and a solid gyro). Then I realized well darn, I can't do it all. I will never make it to all the places I want to go, nor will I ever be able to make everyone happy. It's just not possible. 

Shortly after my grandfather passed away my grieving process took me down the path of discernment regarding our living situation. Danny and I are a package deal now, so I don't get to make that decision alone anymore. Then I realized that even if we moved back to Indiana that I would never have everyone around me. I would miss my sister and brother-in-law in Denver, as well as our many friends, and my grandmother would always be in Pennsylvania, and aunts/uncles/cousins in Baltimore, Dallas, Phoenix, Bogota, etc. It is also complicated by the fact that Danny's family lives in a different part of Indiana as well as Ohio. There will never be just "one place" that will make me or "us" as a married couple

Home is where the heart is
And that will never change.

So months later, I am ready to say my home is Colorado, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Hawaii, Texas, Arizona, and all the places where so many people who have made an impact on my life currently reside. I now believe that if you choose to let yourself acknowledge it, you can in fact have everything, most especially "roots and wings."

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