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You Can't Go Home Again (But You Can Rent A House Two Miles Down The Road)

It is sometimes a hard-fought lesson that the things we least expected (or even wanted) are the things we need the most.

I've always had a complicated relationship with small towns; specifically, the small town in North Carolina I was from. I'm thankful to be raised in the South. I'm thankful for my conservative upbringing. But I always wanted to 'see what else was out there'.

I was actually born in Virginia and not in a small town. But my parents were from a rural farming county in eastern North Carolina. And in an ironic twist that just this moment dawned on me, they obviously wanted to 'see what else was out there' too, because they moved to Virginia after getting married. They spent the majority of their adult lives there and then decided to move back when my dad retired.

That timeframe coincided with a very pivotal point in my life; middle school. In fact, in a cruel twist, when we moved, sixth grade was actually in elementary school in that school system so I went from middle school BACK to elementary school for half of a year.

And I was familiar with the area; at least the adults. We traveled to visit all the time. Since both of my parents were from the same town, there were always relatives to call on. In the summer we would go to an open-air outdoor old-fashioned camp-meeting revival. I dare say I'm in a unique and blessed group to have actually attended one. I have great memories of that sawdust floor on humid nights with old gospel songs and fire-and-brimstone preaching.

So when we moved, it wasn't exactly to a strange land. Theoretically speaking that is. And at 12 I hadn't witnessed enough of the world to feel I was missing anything. But I can honestly say I always wanted out.

It didn't help that I was thrust into a small-town group of kids who had grown up together. I was the 'city' outsider being raised by parents who were actually closer to the age of my classmates' grandparents. There were certainly a few who embraced and accepted me. (Never mind that one of them actually left to join the circus. I guess it's true that restless hearts are drawn to each other.)

And speaking of hearts; dating in a small town equals a small dating pool. I'll never forget one particular boy in middle school who I thought was kinda cute. Much to my surprise (and short-lived delight) he showed up at a family reunion that my mom spent months planning. Turns out he was a second cousin. Neither one of us had any idea we were related.

Another time later in life (after high school) I had gone on a few dates with a guy when we started innocently talking about our respective family trees. Turns out we shared some of the same branches. That's a buzz kill for sure.

So needless to say I was ready to leave; soon. And I did. More than once. And returned again and again. The city limit sign was like a revolving door for a few years. I never quite got my footing away from the 'homestead'. So my girls were raised pretty much the same way I was in that same town. But I always had my eyes set on the distant horizon.

Until the day came when I actually did leave. And I'll be honest, I had some great adventures. Made some fantastic friends. Expanded my experiences and learned so much. And if you had asked me then (or even a year ago), if I'd move back I would have emphatically answered not a chance.

But life had different plans.

So now 15 years later I am writing from a house only two miles from my parent's home. Basically where I started all those years ago. In fact, one night driving home I instinctively slowed down and turned on my blinker when I passed it. Fortunately, I caught myself before I actually turned into someone else's driveway.

And in an often unsettling way, someone knows me almost everywhere I go. My oldest daughter never left and of course, my parents lived here for years as did I. So whether I'm at the doctor's office, the Family Dollar, or the bank, someone knows who I am and who I'm related to. (My chance of doing something in secret is pretty much out of the question.)

And after all those years, in sort of a time warp sense, very little has changed. We do have a cute little coffee shop now. And a boutique. And the guy who bought our farm traded in soybeans for chicken houses. But there is still sawdust on the ground underneath the outdoor tabernacle.

So why, do you ask, did I write all this? Why would you be interested?

Because I think it is important for all of us to realize that regardless of the 'never agains' it is a good idea to keep our minds and options open. It's a mistake to become so entrenched in an idea, even a good one at the time, that we refuse to see that some ideas have an expiration date.

My wanderlust had such a date. (Which is more of a date than I've had recently.)

And I came home; again. But not kicking and screaming this time. Not leaving a suitcase half-packed for the next train leaving. I'm at peace. I'm content. My ultimate goal was to get my small immediate family back together. And I have succeeded.

That kind of success trumps a career or relationship win. Or random adventures. My experiences and adventures may now look smaller to some. But that's ok. My life (our lives) are graded on the curve of our unique happiness.

My happiness does not have to look like yours. Or vice versa. My home does not have to meet your ideal standard. Or vice versa.

Our goals are unique and beautiful and destined to be whatever we make them when we choose to let go of preconceived ideas and .....

Hope With Abandon

Hope Out


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