There are countless times in the past few weeks when I’ve found myself sitting in my very own bed thinking, “I just want to go home. I just want to go home” which seems silly because in all senses of the word, this is home.
I’m sure if I asked, you’d describe home as where you’re from or where you live now, or if you’re like my friend, Madison, you’d say that home is where the pants aren’t.
I’ve had a lot of homes over the years. My parents still live in the same house they brought me home to in 1989 and almost my whole family lives just across town in one direction or another. I lived in dorm rooms for four years where I slept, ate, procrastinated, and watched countless episodes of Gilmore Girls with friends. And I lived as an international nomad for an entire year with about fifty other people. When I came home, I clung to Rome – it’s where the Sunshine Gang ended up. It’s where I learned how to be the Church. It’s got the best hammocking trees and the most beautiful leaves in the autumn and Chacos are normal here, right next to skinny pants and old-man-Jew-sweaters. College turned this into RomeHome, as we so affectionately call it.
Over the past year, that’s changed a little bit. Rome and I have had a love-hate relationship. I’ve hated church. I’ve been mad at my friends. I’ve moved four times – once in each corner of the city, more or less – and have been coming home to this room and this bed for less than six whole months. I’ve spent nights alone and I’ve called Amy to crash whatever is going on at their house because I just need to not be alone for a little while. I’ve been too busy to wash laundry, without a minute to spare for all the people and activities. I’ve had to actually use my cast iron skillets and wooden spoons to make dinner instead of depending on the dining hall or some fast food place to do it for me. I’ve had to carve out time for me – slowly, but surely. I’ve considered moving a hundred times to get out of ‘small town life’ and because I feel like I’m not fulfilling my potential in one sense or another. I’ve left – for Arkansas, for the Appalachian Trail, and for Jamaica, without batting an eye, but I keep coming back here.
I’m not someone who will tell you that we’re so caught up that we only long for heaven or that a person can only ever have one place to call home. My biggest fear in life is settling, so you’ll be hard pressed to find a moment when I’m anywhere close to telling you there’s only one home, one circle, you’re meant to be part of in this life. No, I think there are many unbreakable circles you and I are meant to create.
Circles are only circles if everything connects. There are no gaps. An unbreakable circle is when you don’t show up and somebody notices – you get a phone call or a text message asking you why you didn’t show. You get checked up on and sass-mouthed about being an idiot. An unbreakable circle is a place where you can fall and know somebody will be right beside you to pick you up. An unbreakable circle is full of your people. Your people. Your call-in-the-middle-of-the-night, cry-with-you, not-giving-up-on-you friends. The ones who aren’t going anywhere, even if you say all the mean things. Everyone needs an unbreakable circle or two or three where showing up in sweatpants is fine, even if you accidentally forgot to bring the cheese for dinner or you just need to yell as long as you show up.
The tricky part is showing up because it’s easy to say no and make excuses after a while. It becomes comfortable to bow out gracefully and think you don’t really need to go, but, coming from one who’s pretty fluent in graceful bow-outs, you’ll always go to bed wanting to go home. Sometimes it’s hard to believe people want to invest that much in you, but coming from one who’s been poured over and in and through so much life in a quarter of a century, people want to invest in you, want to know you, want to be all in your life, even the tough parts. And forget the part where you think it’s not worth it for just a little while because you’ll end up somewhere else later. If you find such a circle, experience it and know it, no matter how short the time, because you’ll learn to be the one who starts the circle wherever you go.
I don’t know if I can ever call a place home again and truly mean it. Home will always be where my people are, whether that’s in a little church in northern Arkansas just once or on concrete floors in Africa, at my mom’s kitchen table or right here in Rome. Home is wherever I’m with you.