I've lived in North Carolina for 8 years now. It seems like only yesterday I packed up all my things and all of my life, drove 650 miles south,and set up camp in a strange southern city that I had only been to once before for about a day and a half. It took a lot of courage to leave home. To leave my family, my friends, my job ... everything that was comfortable and familiar and safe. I was completely conflicted as I drove south with my mom and dad. On one hand, I was setting forth on a wonderful adventure that would test me in ways I could never imagine. On the other hand, I knew I was leaving everything I ever really knew and would face many lonely and difficult days in my future. But I consoled myself in knowing that I had Bailey with me, my constant companion.
After arriving to my new home and setting up house (with the great help of my wonderful parents), I spent the summer alone in my apartment. I didn't know anyone and obviously had no friends. I buried myself in my work until grad school began in August. Once school began, I made friends and started to feel more comfortable in my surroundings. But, no matter how many friends I made or how little I needed a map to find my way around, I still felt like a foreigner in a strange land. Maybe it was just that I was a northerner in a southern city, but, whatever it was, it wasn't home.
A few years later, I relocated to Raleigh for job. More accurately, I moved to a small suburb of Raleigh, often "affectionately" referred to as the "Containment Area for Relocated Yankees." I thought for sure that I would feel more comfortable and at ease surrounded by my northern brethren. What I didn't know was that Cary was a small suburban enclave that was lily white with high wrought iron fences protecting McMansions and carefully designed zoning laws to prevent anyone or anything from being too noticeable or different.
It definitely wasn't home. Home was still NY. Home was the long view of the valley from my parents' front porch. Home was hiking through sun-mottled gorges in the summer heat. Home was locking yourself indoors with a warm hot cocoa and Mom's Christmas cookies while the winter wind and snow buried every blade of grass and maybe even a car or two. Home was tasting wine at a vineyard while looking out over the sparkling waters of the Finger Lakes. Home was enjoying an Ithaca beer with my family as the sun sank below the hillside. No matter what I did or where I went, I couldn't replicate those feelings and those experiences.
Then I met JD and things started to change. We moved to Durham to have more space and to be closer to his family. The neighborhood we moved to was more comfortable for me. More character and diversity. A longer commute but a more comfortable existence. We see JD's family regularly, at least once a week for Family Dinner Night. I've adopted little EG as my own niece and look forward to playing with her and spoiling her. We've settled in to life with our three kids, and it's been good. Not without its bumps and challenges, but that's life. And then tonight I had an epiphany.
I'm home. I have real family here now, and I've settled in. I feel more comfortable and at ease right now than I have since I moved to the great North State 8 years ago. Everything seems to be in place and feels right. I write this with one kid stretched out across my lap and arms, another curled up on the floor beside me and another just a few feet further. I just finished cleaning up after another Family Dinner Night (it was our turn to cook), and it just hit me. I'm home.
And I can't remember a time I've been happier.