It is always when you’re about to leave a place that it starts to seem the most lovely, and everything you’ve taken for granted suddenly squeezes your heart so you know what you’re about to lose.
I’ve never felt like Iowa is quite where I belong, although I can’t say that is objectively true so much as that I have a tendency to cast myself as an outsider in my own life. I’ve been trying to own up to that habit. At some point, we all have to take responsibility for ourselves. Whatever has happened to us and whatever we think or feel, we have the choice of how to respond to it.
Everyone who gets to adulthood is a bit frayed in spots, I think, a little cracked around the edges, or deeper still. Perhaps from real tragedy or simply careless words spoken to us as children that burnt our fragile skin, and the scars became the narrative we walked our whole life through.
Growing up, I always felt defective somehow, as if I could not fit in with other people, due to extreme introversion and anxiety in social situations. As a child, the story I picked up to carry said that I could never connect with other people, so I would never really matter to anyone.
I explained this to a counselor for the first time this spring. We traced the problem down to its roots, and while I don’t think I’ve quite conquered those lies, it felt healing at least to see where they came from, to see it’s just a story I’ve been carrying–one that’s grown heavy after all these years–but it’s not the only story.
My counselor told me to ask a couple friends what qualities they see in me, and they responded with a flood of kind words that reminded me of a different story. How I moved in with friends, who weren’t all that close at the time, and through patience and proximity (and perhaps a bit of providence), we became a family.
We adventured across Iowa, and I learned to love my home state from its rolling hills in the east to the flat, windswept grids of the west. Watching blazing sunsets, sitting together with coffee in quiet mornings, I felt a part of something, accepted and free.
It’s been a couple years since that time, and my life has had its ups and downs. I left the state last summer, came back, and now I’m leaving again. It’s bittersweet. I have a wandering heart, but I’ll leave part of it here with those who have loved me fully as I am.
But love doesn’t diminish over a distance; it stretches. We simply have to remember it’s there, perhaps work a little harder to see it. And I think we’re all held by a greater love. It found me, unexpectedly, in Iowa hills and fields. Now I’ll go find it in oceans.
(Photo by the lovely Amanda)