(This post is for my awesome fake-aunt who encouraged me to write more about myself. I needed to get this out, and decided that my blog is the best place to do it. Thanks for the encouragement, Auntie.)
I’m writing this in the car as we ride back home. We just finished up a weekend trip to North Carolina because three good friends were graduating from high school. (Thanks, Mom and Dad, for letting us come, by the way – love you guys!)
Without giving up too many details, North Carolina is the place where I was born and raised for almost fifteen years. North Carolina was my childhood. We moved because of my dad’s job. I absolutely hated it. The Move was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, mainly because all of my roots, friends, and what seemed like my very existence was there, in North Carolina. I cried when I left – so many times.
We’ve been here for five years. I can see how long it’s been very vividly because Nut-Nut, my five-year-old brother, was only a month old when we moved. I can also see how long it’s been judging by the size of trees, my friends’ younger siblings (and my friends’ older siblings’ children, which is a scary thought), and buildings sprouting up out of nowhere in the middle of fields that previously grew corn and were fenced in to hold cows.
We haven’t come back in a year – since we got The Bean, my fourteen-month-old sister – and this past weekend has just been hard. Of course, we’ve had so much fun staying up ’til two in the morning and dancing the night away at the graduation and seeing old friends who we haven’t talked to since years before we moved, but… there’s just something different about everyone. Everyone’s changed. All of my friends in North Carolina have graduated and some of them are even off to college – which is a scary thought. (It’s even scarier when I see people I haven’t seen in years and have to answer their “So, what’re you up to these days?” with a bashful and shocked “I’m a Sophomore. In college.” Scary.)
Like Frodo says in The Return of the King, “How can you pick up the threads of an old life?” As I reflect on all of the people I’ve seen this weekend, I’ve realized that I would not be the same person I am today if my family didn’t move. This weekend, I’ve seen some friends who are still Godly and awesome, some friends who are straying, and some friends who have “gone off the deep end.”
And it makes me wonder what criteria I would fit in, if we hadn’t moved.
I honestly can’t say.
I know I’ve been changed for the better and for good. However, I don’t know how many of the lessons I’ve learned I would have learned if we hadn’t moved – if that makes any sense. I don’t know if I would be doing CollegePlus, publishing a novel, or have the same convictions that I do now if we hadn’t moved.
When we moved, I didn’t have a Facebook account, wasn’t on Twitter, didn’t have a blog or even a cell phone. In other words, I had no way of keeping in touch with my friends besides using the home phone or emailing. (At the time, I was scared of talking to people on the phone, so that was out.) Emailing was basically my only connection with my friends. Soon, our emails got farther and farther apart as I watched friendships slowly drift away. I can count on one hand the people who have still kept in contact with me since The Move, and I thank God for them after every email, text, phone call, and visit. (I’m still not on Facebook or Twitter, just in case any of you were wondering. I don’t have the time, lol.)
It’s always nice to go back, but leaving is so hard. So hard. Anyone who’s ever done it before – moved states away and only see old friends on special occasions – knows what it’s like. Leaving is the worst part of the trip because you’re so glad to see friends, but you know that you’ll be leaving again in just a few days and all of the connections you’ve made will slowly dissolve.
Earlier today, before we left, a friend and I went back to a fort we’d built in the woods behind his back yard. (When we told my mom where we were going, she said, “What fort?” My friend and I just said, “You know… The Fort!” Then she gasped, grinned, and said, “Aww…. That’s so sad….” And then I left, because I couldn’t handle it. I was having a hard enough time by myself.) It was great, but also a little shocking. Looking around at the limbs that had encircled the fort, and the bricks and wooden pallets that had made our fort look “cool,” and all of the deteriorated and rotting reminders… it all felt so long ago – almost as if we had lived a different life “back then.” My friend and I kept saying, “Wow… just wow.” and “We were so little then! It seemed so big!” We were so proud of that fort. (We made plans to spend a week this summer forgetting about college and money and fixing up The Fort. Our thirteen-year-old selves would be so proud of us – these “big kids” coming to fix our fort and making it better than our original plans.)
So, in conclusion, I don’t regret visiting – not at all. I’ve loved dancing and catching up and making up inside jokes and just laughing with friends about the random things you say when you’re tired at midnight.
It was just… weird. And different. Some things were totally different. For instance, I distinctly remember being driven around a farm in a go-cart by one of my best friends (and rounding a curve and painfully hitting a stump, which I’ve never forgiven him for). Yesterday, he drove me to his house in his car – the same car he’ll be taking to college in the Fall. Talk about different.
I’ve always hated change. Maybe that’s why I didn’t want to move so much. In Becoming Nikki, I wrote something similar to what I’ve always felt. ‘I felt like I was living life in skid mode, constantly wanting everything and everybody to slow down, for Pete’s sake!’ (I’ll even be totally honest and add a disclaimer that I still feel this way sometimes.)
However, I’ve slowly learned to embrace the change, which is one of the things God has been teaching me over the past five years. He’s taught me to accept changes, because it’s going to happen regardless of whether I want it to happen or not. Friends will grow up, move away, go to college, get jobs, get married, and have kids. Facts of life. Life is an exciting thing, even if some things happen that you don’t necessarily want to happen. “These things do happen,” though. Since there’s nothing that I can do to stop it (and because “living life in skid mode” hurts your feet), I’ve learned to stop clinging to the past and race towards the future and the finish line, trying to do the best I can – relying solely on God’s help in the process.