Two years ago we decided to be in one place full-time, and I love so much about it. But I also miss a lot about the place we left. Sometimes (all the time?), it's really tough to belong to two places.
This week, I've been feeling stuck. Not in my job or my marriage or my body, but between geographic locations and the reasons my heart tugs back and forth toward each. Our wonderful families and church are in one place, where we've chosen to be, and there are so many fantastic parts of that, perhaps things that I've started to take for granted again now that we've been back awhile. A few hours north is a thriving, bustling city that was always easy to navigate and fun to explore (and for two introvert homebodies, those are very helpful qualities). The little town where we went to school and fell in love. People who knew each of us separately and then came to know us as a couple.
Don't freak out, y'all. I'm not up and quitting the job I love, we're not getting out of the cozy house we rent, nothing is changing. I'm just reflecting (and maybe venting, slightly) on how damn difficult it can be to have to pick one place. To not be able to put yourself in a different spot for even one moment and see how it would feel (of course, even one moment wouldn't truly tell you). Two roads diverged... and you have to choose. And other people matter in the decision. Splitting in two is not an option. They still haven't built that high-speed rail between Atlanta and Charlotte, so here we are.
I'm sharing this not to spark curiosity or questions or conversations or even hurt feelings about where I want to be and why. There are so many reasons that I'm glad we are where we are. But I am expressing this "out loud" because 1) I'm a writer and a connector, it's what I do, and 2) I need to know (though yes, I know already) that we're not the only ones to love two places, while we can only inhabit one.
Maybe it makes sense to have these emotions rise up almost exactly two years after I wrote this piece; maybe I'm always going to feel this bit of loss in July, the anniversary of when I packed up life in the city where I became an adult and moved home. That is very possible, just like the haze of mind and heart on the anniversary of a loved one's passing.
I used to be afraid of admitting that I missed Charlotte in any way, because it must mean that I wasn't happy in Atlanta, that all of this uprooting had been for naught. I had to be 100% all in, happy about every bit of it. See, leaving a place isn't necessarily like a person dying; a geographic location is, typically, still physically there for you to return to. I often find myself secretly satisfied when I hear about friends or acquaintances leaving Charlotte, because it makes me feel like I'm not the only one who left, that change encompasses us all. But I'm trying not to be afraid or ashamed of what or who I miss and when and why anymore--because what good does that really do?
It's difficult for me to view life in phases. I often think of whatever phase I'm in as "forever," even though I know from experience it doesn't work that way. I'm a details person, nose to the current ground, I function day-to-day, routine encompasses our life. In this phase, we're here. We get to spend a lot of time with our families, a true gift. We both have good jobs that teach us a lot and expect much of us, give us great experiences. We don't have kids yet. No dog yet, either.
When I try to think big picture, it mostly just leaves me frustrated that there are big parts of the big picture that I can't fill in yet with detail. I think that's where I am in the moment of this writing, and so I ask you to bear with me. Oh, sure, I can pinpoint a phase after it's passed and I'm on to the next one, but looking forward to who and what and when and where and how it's all going to come together? Those are the answers I want to know, and those are the questions we have to answer as they arise. Can we find a niche here, where our families are, when we claim another city as our favorite? Will we find a neighborhood community in this big city that will give the two of us friendships and embrace our future children?
Ha. I say I live day-to-day, but maybe I'm more "big picture" than I realize--because my detailed brain can sure spend a lot of time on those large, unknown questions, rather than simply existing in this phase of our life together and moseying on to whatever it will show us next.
I know what Rilke said about living into the questions, and I get it, and I know it's true. Often, I don't feel like I have too many questions. Life is good in so many ways. But the ugly heat of July seems to bring it up: what a gift to feel tied to two places. And, at the same time, what a wrench of the heart.