“Where are you from?”
I dread that question.
I know people are well-meaning when they ask. They have no idea what a loaded question that is for someone like me who has spent the majority of their life trying to figure out if I’m coming or going. Now, as my 11th major move in life approaches this week, I feel just as much of a nomad as ever.
I was born in North Carolina, but moved at just three months old, so obviously my actual birthplace holds little sentiment in my heart. From there was a series of moves every couple of years- Georgia, Virginia, Indiana, Florida- finally when I was 7 we landed in Oklahoma and made it our home until the summer before my freshman year. I started and finished high school in metro Atlanta, Georgia and planned to go to college in Tennessee when we got the notice my dad was being transferred again- this time further west than I had ever been before: Salt Lake City, Utah.
I thought I was at the ends of the earth.
Driving out to Utah I had never seen such desolate-looking landscape before. I was sure living in Utah was going to be miserable, but instead I found my husband and my footing as a young bride. A few months after marriage we were offered a position in South Georgia, where we were content to settle and put down roots. But after our two girls were born, we felt the desire to be closer to family and made the trek to Houston, Texas where we lived for five years.
Now we’ve called Southeast Asia our home for the past two years, and we’re about to head back to Houston again for a season before we return to Asia.
It’s been a crazy ride, friends. I don’t know where home is. I’m not really “from” anywhere. I’m a nomad, a wanderer, a sojourner just thankful for a warm meal and soft bed wherever I happen to land. So how do you live like this? How do you go through life knowing you will never really have a place to call home? How can you live life to the fullest without putting down roots?
Once upon a time I wanted to settle in one place and stay there forever. I wanted my kids to grow up in the same house, on the same street, with the same friends their whole lives. I never had that, and I wanted it for my family. I wanted to buy and decorate a house and invest money into it because I knew it would be home forever. I wanted a picture of growing old with my husband in this one place as something I could hold onto.
I used to think that perhaps I wasn’t a good wife and mother if I didn’t provide this for my family. I thought every family needed roots, a physical place to call home.
But I was wrong.
Here I am on the brink of yet another move, and I can already see the value in the transition. It’s good. It’s healthy to have change. It’s important for kids to learn how to adapt to new situations. It’s necessary to experience the joy of loving and letting go. It makes us stronger, more empathetic, more aware. I am so incredibly grateful for every place I’ve ever lived and what that place and people taught me. I am grateful to know what it is to be an outsider. I am glad my kids have experienced what it’s like to be the minority. They are leaving Asia better than they were before it, and so am I.
Moving is hard, yes. I don’t advise looking for opportunities to up and move for no reason. But I also encourage you not to be afraid of letting “home” be different than what you imagined it- a different street, different city, different continent. You may just find that on the other side of the hard is an adventure that transforms your family in the very best way.
I have found in my experience that you don’t need “roots” to live a full life. You don’t need a permanent address to feel safe and secure in your place in the world. Transition causes us to cling to the Comforter, rather than the comfort of the familiar. Moving makes us cherish the times we have with the people we love even more, because we know that some things don’t last forever. Embracing change means embracing the freedom of walking in complete surrender. And somehow, even in that surrender, we find ourselves at home.
Because I have learned that home can be anywhere that I open my heart to.
If you’re feeling the tug to make a change, embrace it. If you’re standing on the brink of an opportunity that includes a new address, don’t let fear hold you back. If you’re wondering how moving will affect your kids, take heart. The One who writes the story of your life has a greater adventure planned than you could ever dream. It’s not always smooth sailing, and I still hate goodbyes as much as ever, but I wouldn’t trade this nomadic life for anything. My life and my family’s lives are richer, fuller, better because of it. And besides:
“This world is not my home, I’m just passing through…”