Of all the questions asked of me since starting grad school, I never anticipated that the hardest one to answer would be “Where are you from?”
As I stumble through the many homes I have had in the past few years my thoughts begin to trip over each other:
“Umm well I’m originally from Maryland – that’s where I grew up. But I moved here from New Orleans where I was living for two years before this. Does that count? Except you know, I lived in Ohio for a few years as well and oddly enough I identify as an Ohioan more than anything…I even risked excommunication from my family by becoming a Buckeye fan (luckily they still love me!).”
I could get even more detailed than that – I have homes that I have only ever spent two weeks in. “What about Mexico? That was where I learned that the world is so much bigger than the small corner I inhabit, and also that it’s more beautiful and more heartbreaking than I could imagine. Or the Dominican Republic, where I learned from the brave men and women who have experienced the lows in their country’s history what it means to risk your life for the ones that you love. Or what about Nicaragua? Nicaragua was where I realized that the language of my soul is Spanish and that no matter how many times I must leave Central America I will always return.”
Now I have uprooted yet again and have placed myself at the start of another beginning. And I have to admit that in my three weeks of being here, my wandering soul has realized just how tired it has become, and I began to feel homesick. The only problem is, I didn’t even know which home I was homesick for. I just knew that after years of saying yes to each new calling, my heart began to wonder what it would feel like to stop, to just stay put.
Last week I spoke to a good friend of mine, Jacqueline, and told her of this aching to belong, to stay. “Leaving home sucks. Let’s not lie to ourselves about that,” she said. “And yet…it’s as if some of us are called to be weeds.”
Jesus tells us to look at the birds of the sky, at the lilies of the field…but look at the weeds?
Yes, the weeds, she says. After they are planted, perennials will grow year after year in the same place. Not so the weeds. The weeds will grow in a place and remain for a season. But when the time comes, they turn to seed and the wind blows them away, until they land in a new place and grow yet again. Some people are meant to be perennials, to remain grounded in a single place, and that is good. And yet, how would the world ever change without the weeds? Without the ones who will go to new places, expand their worldview, understand people who are different than themselves, and carry this with them everywhere that they go? Being a weed means saying yes to new beginnings, which inevitably means having to leave home maybe once, maybe many times, and it doesn’t get any easier. “And yet,” she said, “I don’t know if I would want to be anything else.”
And I know in my heart that I, too, am called to be a weed. At least for now. As I think back to all of the times I have said yes to all of the crazy places and experiences I have been called to, my heart begins to feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the ways these homes have shaped me into the person I now am, and with joy for the simple fact that my heart is planted in so many beautiful places across this earth. Despite my doubts and exhaustion, I would not wish a single one of these places out of my life.
Whether this is the last of my new beginnings, or just one along a path of more to come is not for me to know. I think we all go through seasons. There are times to stay put, to put down roots and grow deep into the soil. But also times to let yourself be carried somewhere new and trust that you will grow yet again.
So I will trust.