I’ve lived in Nashville for five years now.
Sometimes I just state this fact over and over in my head. Five years. Five years! It seems like such a long time. And I think of all the roads I have taken and all the things I have learned in my time there. I never could have imagined finding a home in a place so unlike the place where I grew up. But I have. I round the curves of highways, look at the sunset glowing like fire off the tops of the skyscrapers downtown, and feel a sense of peace. I walk down the road to the park two blocks from my house and know just how my steps will go. I wake up in the morning to my roommates of three years, though not knowing them completely, knowing many of the things that make them tick and their habits throughout the day.
I don’t claim to like routines, and I don’t claim to have one, but I guess I do. I have fallen in a rhythm with this once unfamiliar city. Sometimes it is slower than I would like it to be – sometimes it is much faster and I’m crying out for places without cell phone reception. But still, I have made a home of it. But there are lots of places I call home, lots of places where I find comfort.
And I’m back in the Midwest for a few weeks.
There’s something about making my connection in the Minneapolis airport and hearing the accent again, the one that people tease me for, but I don’t mind. I feel that Minnesota and Iowa nice and it warms my heart right up. It took me a few years to feel pride for it all, but I loved growing up in the Midwest. When I tell people I grew up in Iowa, their response seems to usually be “You must have been bored out of your mind.” And although I may have wished for mountains and oceans and city lights, I don’t think I was ever bored. Because there was always something to discover. I never had any sort of illusion that I’d seen it all; I don’t think many people in the Midwest do. I never had any sense that where I lived was the center of the universe. I never had any illusion that I was the point. And because I grew up in a place some would consider dull, I think it gave me a greater appreciation for the beauties many have grown accustomed to.
There’s a genuineness here that you don’t find anywhere else. And people are kind, for no reason or maybe every reason. Yes, there’s the small town gossip, but every place has its gossip. Even in the city, people create their own small town pockets and communities and gossip travels through just the same. And sure, to some it may be uncool or behind-the-times or too simple, but I’ve met so many people with happy, good hearts that I know it can’t be bad, just different. The other day I met a recently married couple in their twenties who had decided to give up their smart phones for little prepaids – not because they couldn’t afford it. They were both well-paid nurses who lived in a house in the suburbs, they weren’t radicals in any way. They just knew their money could be spent elsewhere. “We wanted to be more present with each other.” And that’s freaking cool to me, guys.
And in the midst of being in the land that built me, there is this feeling of home and heartland that feels so strong to me. I know there is so much more to see – this vast universe out there before me. I want to touch grains of sand thousands of miles away and stand on mountaintops and taste foods I can hardly pronounce. But it still feels so good to pull into the gravel driveway and look out upon the rows and rows of corn and soybeans that framed my childhood, to breathe in that rural Iowa air scented of sweet black dirt and farm animals and feel that familiarity again. Yet Nashville holds me too; it is shaping me in ways I never could have imagined and connecting me with beautiful colorful people I am so lucky to have met.
Home is lots of things to many people, but I will sum it up as this:
Home is a place where you can grow; body, mind, and/or spirit. Sometimes your roots are in different places, gathering water and sunshine from areas that feel so far apart, but where you are still connected. And this place, whether it’s the land or the hearts of people you love, holds you and says grow – grow into all you were made to be.