I hated Anderson when I moved there four years ago. HATED it. Like cried in the shower every night and gave myself stomach ulcers because the thought of having to spend one more single day there stressed me out so much. I lost track of how many times over the years I filled out transfer applications and all but pressed “submit” because I just wanted to come home.
And so it honestly doesn’t make a lot of sense how or why- four years later- I’m just now leaving Anderson. And I am really, really sad about it.
A few weeks ago, I packed up all my stuff and moved it to another state instead of into a storage unit down the street from school. I said bye to people I’ve spent the last four years alongside, without the comforting knowledge that it was more of just a temporary “see ya later.” I took all my pictures off the walls, all my junk off the shelves, and closed [slammed] the busted back door of my little white house on the hill for the last time.
And then I drove to a house I’d never slept in before. A house in which the walls were still being painted, furniture still being delivered- a house that was, in a word, chaotic. Messy. Unfamiliar. A house that didn’t really feel like the home I was used to. I just felt like I had left a place I really loved and was now somewhere else.
Somewhere that’s also my home, but doesn’t have in it so many of the people I love so much. Somewhere that doesn’t house a whole lot of the good memories I’ve made over the past four years. And don’t get me wrong- this place is full of people I love and good memories we’ve made, too. But it feels different right now, in kind of a sad way.
It’s weird when the place you grew up in no longer feels like your comfort zone. And I know I’ll get used to it again with time. But does that mean Anderson can’t be my home anymore? And what about the day I leave Champaign again, this time adventuring somewhere else. Where’s my home then? Can I have more than one? Is it better to have none- can I avoid the sadness of leaving somewhere by refusing to attach myself to it in the first place?
It’s hard to have two homes. It’s hard to be present and joyful and grateful in one with your mind on the other. And I think it would also be hard to have no home- no comfort zone, no resting place, no familiarity to return to when life gets hard.
“This world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to an eternal home that’s yet to come.”
The perspective I think I’ve been missing is that my one true home is not on this earth. God sends us to lots of different places that we come to love and he puts people in our lives while we’re there to cherish. We call them home for a little while, but ultimately, we know where we’re headed and it’s much better than any place we could find on earth.
It’s okay to be sad when you leave a place you love. A place that, when you first arrived, might have been scary and unfamiliar but is now filled with meaning and memories. It’s okay to grieve the loss of that comfort and routine and familiarity. Sometimes the people you meet there become like family, and it’s okay to be sad when you go your separate ways, to your own separate homes.
But how lucky are we that God lets us be blessed by so many different places? No matter how long or short our stay, they are all stops along the path to our real home, and they are filled with so many good things.
I’m thankful for my home in Anderson and all the good things it’s brought me. I’m thankful for my home in Champaign and I’m thankful for any other homes I’ll have in my life, too.
Nothing on this earth will last forever, but our home in heaven will. This is what we have to look forward to. Rather than focusing on the brevity of each of our earthly homes and the sadness that will inevitably come when we leave a place and people we love, I hope instead we will count each of these places and the people there as wonderful little gifts given while we wait for the ultimate, eternal one.