The comfort of change and the risk of stability
I’ve moved nine times in the past eight years. I’ve lived with 23 people. I’ve traveled to California and Texas, Mexico and England, Italy and Spain, Paris and Poland. I’ve made new friends and settled into cities and mourned the loss of those I’ve left behind. Change after change after change.
And you know what? I love it. I love that, just about this time each year, I pack up for a summer adventure. I love that moving causes me to cast aside the needless stuff I’ve accumulated and whittle down my possessions to what I actually deem useful. I love that feeling of walking into a new church on Sunday, looking around for friendly faces to approach after Mass. I love boarding planes and trains and cars for long drives and that feeling of freedom, the world as my oyster. I thrive on change.
But this is the first time I won’t be moving. I’ll have new roommates, but the same bedroom on the same street in the same Fairmount I’ve come to fiercely love. It’s my home and here I belong. I’ve belonged in the other eight homes I’ve had, yes, but this time, this place really feels like my own. I have no reason to leave and so many to stay.
It hasn’t always been the case. For years I’ve been afflicted with that itch for something new. A restlessness, and wondering what and where and who else could be out there, awaiting me. It’s led to a plethora of adventures, and dear friends scattered around the country, and a hopeful resilience in the face of the unknown. I’ve found it somehow comforting to leave a home behind. I can say goodbye to what challenged me, to difficult relationships or annoying discomforts or the tedium of routine. There’s something invigorating about a clean slate. “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” ponders Anne of Green Gables. Yes, Anne, it is. And even better is a new home, a new job, a new life altogether. How refreshing and freeing and good.
I’ve long wondered if I’d always feel this way. Always restless at the end of the year, ready for a change, dissatisfied with my new norm. And while I can’t say my changeable ways are gone for good, what peace I’ve found in staying. You see, we are meant to belong. We are meant to love for a lifetime. It is good to put down roots and develop lasting friendships and watch the neighbor’s kids grow up. I’m starting to feel that.
The other day, as I ran errands, I was struck with the joy of belonging. I waited in line at the supermarket, and the man behind the deli counter struck up a conversation with me. We spoke of the weather, and my dinner plans, and his day. As I left, I ran into a priest from the church around the corner. I saw that same little white dog, the one who protests its walks in the heat by sitting on the sidewalk in the shade, unwilling to go on. I stopped to chat with a friend from my running club, and we made plans to get coffee. I looked across the street to the hardware store and caught a glimpse of my friend (whose name I wish I could remember), watering plants and unpacking shipments and greeting passersby as he always does. And all this in the span of two blocks, on my very own street. The street where I belong.
It’s a true gift to experience the joy that I do, to love a place so very much and to feel so at home. But even so, my fickle past gives me pause. What if there’s something better out there? Should I get a new job? Should I move to Boston like I’ve long imagined doing? There is a risk in stability. It’s saying no to the limitless possibilities of what if and saying yes to the here and now. To friendships that can be slow to grow and to a job that requires me to seek challenges and to the routine that, day in and day out, actually can be the source of delightful newness and depth.
So, I’m forgoing the comfort in favor of risk. I’m letting my roots sink deeper, my heart grow wider, and my life blossom into a God-tended garden.