What I thought I wanted from this trip was to reconnect with family (mostly my father in law because he reminds me always of what is important and who I am,) to have a change of scenery, to shirk all my new responsibilities for awhile, and to TAKE PICTURES! I also wanted to go back to a place I felt connected to and to be inspired by the people and the surroundings so that I could come back here and get back to work with a better attitude and restored confidence.
Because honestly, how can you not be inspired by this place?
But, as always on those trips back to places we've lived before, there are unfulfilled expectations. It may not help that my particular form of expectation is the ridiculously high, unattainable kind. While the picture taking and barn hunting were completely fulfilling and exactly what I wanted and expected, the other stuff wasn't. There wasn't enough time with people I wanted to spend time with. There wasn't enough quiet time to take advantage of the limited time I did have with a few people. And the fact is, we don't live there anymore, so as much as my heart longs to 'belong" to Cache Valley, I just don't.
That's the thing about moving around a lot. It gives you an amazing perspective when you leave a place and come back to it, but it also comes with this agonizing void of not belonging anywhere. Seven years, no matter how pivotal in may have been in my opinion, is really such a short amount of life. The people we left in Mendon don't think about us during their average days, so there's not a lot to connect us anymore. Our family has moved twice in the six years since we left Utah. People have since moved into our old house, replaced us in the church callings we held, and filled whatever voids we may have left when we drove out of that valley in 2010. And we've changed, too. Some of our kids have now lived away from Utah for longer than they lived in Utah. They're different. We all are.
So after my super high expectations came crashing back into reality, and after I spent a few hours crying about it, I went upstairs and talked to my dear, sweet father-in-law who is a wealth of wisdom. We talked about life in Birmingham, about weighty responsibilities and busy schedules. He asked if I felt spiritually challenged and if I was magnifying my new calling. He asked about temple attendance and scriptures. He asked how this experience is different than our experience in Allen. And after sifting through all of my answers (and all of my whining) he talked about the amazing opportunity we have in Birmingham to BE THE LIGHT that we have been gathering in all the other places we've lived. He talked about the responsibility and the blessing of that LIGHT and mentioned the vast capacity my particular heart has to love life and the people I am surrounded by. And he said that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. He's not the first person who's told me that since I've been here, and to hear it from a second person that I love and respect in almost the exact same words was totally overwhelming. Sheesh...if you think that didn't make me cry for a million different reasons, you must not know me very well.
On our way home, Craig asked me if I had gotten what I wanted to out of the trip. I think I did. It came in a different way than I expected, but I left there with renewed confidence, greater purpose, more motivation and inspiration to come back to Birmingham and work hard, and a totally different idea of what "belonging" is.
I don't really have a hometown. I never know what to say when people ask me where I'm from. I don't belong to Hawaii where my mom and sisters live, or to Utah where Craig's family lives. I don't belong in Allen anymore, or Atlanta, or Seattle, or any of the other places I've lived. But they are all part of me. And right now, I have brought pieces of them with me to Birmingham, where I currently "belong" because my home, my ward, my daily life, and most importantly my family are here.
This place is beautiful and challenging and uplifting and inspiring just like all those other places I've lived. I don't need to plan a "Utah fix" regularly to regain any of those things I think have been drained out of me in this place. I just need to remember those wise words from wise people and stop complaining. I need to make more of an effort to look at Birmingham the way I look at Cache Valley, with hope and love and with the expectation that I will find something beautiful. Because there's certainly plenty of it here. It just looks a little different.