Home Is Where The Heart Is

Recently I moved back to the area that I grew up in. When I moved away in 2011, I swore up and down that I would never move back. I guess when someone says “never say never” you should probably listen. I was offered an incredible job, and after a few months of transitioning, I wanted to talk about the experience a little bit more.

I spent seven years of my life living in a city 1,000 miles away from my family. And, if I’m being totally honest, I feel more homesick now than I think I ever have. There were definitely times when I lived in Springfield that I missed home (like that one time I wasn’t home for Christmas). But, as I sit here still trying to recover from a recent visit back to good ole Springtown, I realize how much of my heart is still there.

But here’s the weird thing—my heart isn’t in the places. When I got into Springfield, I was expecting to have some weird come-to-Jesus moment where I broke down because I still felt like I belonged there. I didn’t. My brain short circuited because I was all of a sudden in this very familiar place, but it didn’t feel like home anymore. But if I’m being honest… Ithaca doesn’t feel like home either.

So where does that leave me?

I really don’t know. What I do know is this—the phrase “home is where the heart is” means something very different to me now. My heart isn’t in Springfield anymore, but it isn’t here in Ithaca with me either. It’s with all of the people who have shaped me into the person I am today. Being with all of those familiar faces this weekend was like medicine. I have not been hugged that many times in a while and let me tell you, ya girl needed it.

My heart is with my church family. The one that still uses me in the promotional material even though I live 1,000 miles away now. The one that I know still prays for me, and welcomes me back with open arms when I visit. My heart is with the friends who don’t want to do anything except sit in our pajamas and eat Taco Bell, and will humor me as I say a “Midwest goodbye.” My heart is with the friend who has seen me cry more times than any other person in this world, and walked with me through the toughest season of my life, but is also there to watch Queer Eye with me and laugh at the good times, too. My heart is with the friends who encourage me and push me, and let me into their lives.

My heart is with my actual, real, biological family. The one who has firsthand seen how hard this transition has hit me and has tried to do everything in their power to make New York feel like home again. The one who stands by me and loves me even when I make it exceptionally difficult. The one who is excited for me to be back, but understands that being here still leaves me feeling very isolated and confused and is giving me the space to figure it out.

If I wrote individually about each person that I felt “at home” with, this post would be an actual novel. So, to make it short(er), I just wanted to let everyone know how much I appreciate them. In this season of not feeling like any particular place is “home” to me, I will cherish all of the people who I feel at home with. Even if they’re 1,000 miles away.

Growing Pains

I know, I know. I’m a bad blogger. I haven’t posted something I’m way too long. Truth is, a lot has been happening, and I often didn’t know where to start. There is this word document I keep of potential blog posts, and let’s just say there are a lot of posts that I started but couldn’t finish. Some because they were too sensitive. Some because I knew I would get negative comments. Some because I would get half way through writing them and think that what I was experiencing or feeling was insignificant, and not worthy of sharing. I’ve decided that those reasons to not blog just aren’t good enough anymore, so, here we are.

Since last August, my life has been anything but boring. I graduated with my Masters Degree, and was presented with an opportunity to teach some classes fresh out of grad school. I was so excited; I entered that new chapter of my life bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. It didn’t last long. My experiences in teaching were great. I worked alongside of some of the kindest, smartest, most driven faculty I have ever met. They were constantly going above and beyond for their students and fellow faculty members. But that didn’t stop me from feeling stuck. I had so many ideas, so many plans, that just didn’t work out. And they kept not working out. I felt like no matter how hard I tried, nothing was working. I questioned my qualifications, intelligence, and my purpose, and it put me in a dark place.

This place was not one I let many people see. The few that I let see it REALLY saw it, and that just made me feel worse. I felt like they were carrying me through this gross, awful, unbearable stage in my life, but I just couldn’t do it by myself.  And seriously, those few that I did share with were some of the most gracious, patient, and loving people. Honestly, I don’t know where I would be without them, and I am forever grateful for the support and love. I feel like I’m being dramatic, talking about the past year like this. But let me paint a quick picture for you: The amount of money I was making paled in comparison to what I needed. Had it not been for the generosity of a kind friend, I literally don’t know where I would have lived or how I would’ve made things work. I was dog-sitting for people so often, I basically didn’t even live at home. But I didn’t have a choice; I needed to make the extra money just to make things work. I even dog-sat my last weekend living in Springfield, because I needed the money for gas to move myself back to New York (more on this later). My health insurance decided to be the STUPIDEST and I got hit with some large, unexpected expenses. And. AND. I filled out job applications almost EVERY SINGLE WEEK for eight months with hardly any leads. I ended up with a part time job working in a store downtown that helped while I continued my search for “the next big thing.” It was hard, because I felt like everywhere I was looking wasn’t working. I felt so stuck, but at the same time, I felt so badly that the only answer was outside of Springfield.

Which put me in a hard place. Springfield had become my home. I had spent seven years there, building a life for myself, throwing down some roots. It’s a hard thing when the place you call home doesn’t feel like home anymore. I didn’t want to leave the friends and “family” that I had chosen, but, it felt almost like it did when I was 18, that leaving would be the best thing for me. So did I leave? Yes, I sure did. I moved back to the one place I said I would never go: home. That being said, the transition did not go how I’d hoped. At all. I thought I would have more time to say goodbye, and I didn’t. How do you say goodbye to the people that you love, and have spent the past seven years doing life with? You definitely need more than a weekend, that’s for damn sure. There were people I didn’t even get to say goodbye to—people that didn’t even know that I LEFT until after I was back in New York. My heart broke a little more with every mile I drove. There are things I wish I could go back and do over; people I wish I could hug. Through the whole process everyone just kept saying “fast, like a Band-Aid.” Well, I’m allergic to those stupid things, so keep that stupid analogy to yourself.

And how do you go from living on your own for seven years, to living with your family again? Don’t get me wrong, I’m so blessed that they’ve graciously taken me in like one of the neighborhood strays, but there have definitely been some growing pains. And how do you reconnect with the people you were once so close with, but left behind for so long? You pick up where you leave off when you come home on small breaks, but to come home for good is an entirely different matter. Seven years. It’s nearly a decade. Do you know how much people change in that time? A lot. It’s like getting to know each other all over again. I know that I still have those people; we’ve always been close. But man, I feel like I’m starting over, and it. Is. Hard.

So how did I get here? Well, my mom pointed me in the direction of some job postings, which led me to the job posting that led me to the job that I have now. When I read the job description, I felt like the job was made for me. Everything that I had learned as a graduate student and in working at MSU prepared me, and I sent the application in the day before I drove home to visit my family. I wasn’t expecting to hear anything right away, but the turnaround was fast—they wanted to interview me. Coincidentally, I was in New York, 45 minutes away from them. The interview went well, and long story short, I moved back in with my parents and have been commuting to and from Cornell every day since. It’s been a whirlwind, but this opportunity has been amazing. The department is wonderful, and I’m so looking forward to my time here.

So why have I written this way-too-long blog post? To be vulnerable, for one. To let you guys know that, hey, this past year SUCKED. I hated it. Okay, not all of it. I made a lot of great connections and grew a lot emotionally and spiritually. To encourage someone, somewhere, that’s waiting for the next step. You feel stuck, you feel like nothing is working no matter how hard you try. I felt like that, too. I had literally reached a breaking point. I needed to move out of where I was living but didn’t have anything lined up, I didn’t have a plan, and I was SCARED. But then I found literally the most perfect job for me. Sure, it was 1,000 miles away, but I was so happy. And it has been amazing to watch everything fall into place. So, don’t give up. In the meantime, keep growing. You’ll be amazed at how all of the things that seem insignificant now will actually be significant when you get to where you want to go.