A long, long time ago, in a galaxy unfortunately not so far away, a fifth grade version of myself came home on the third day of school and announced he was never going back. My parents responded by doing what any concerned parents would do in that situation - they sent me to a shrink. OK, he wasn't exactly a "shrink," but was actually more of a psychologist/counselor. But "shrink" sounds more dramatic, so let's go with that. Of course, this all ended my early onset dropout days, and after a short while of talking with me, he pronounced that I'd be fine, but would probably never be a person who liked change. Looking back, that was the understatement of the century! However, in the years that followed, knowing that at times change was necessary to progress in life, I allowed or initiated it - all the while filled with concern and trepidation. I was never one to willingly skip off into the land of transition carelessly whistling a joyful tune.
Change is a funny thing. Many of us often dread it, but after it comes, we often find ourselves in new situations we never could have imagined, and which wouldn't be possible without the existence of the change that led us there. Thankfully, these new situations are often for the better.
Five years ago, Christina and I decided to stir the pot and move from Rhode Island to Ohio. I had applied to and been offered a church music job at a place that seemed to be a great fit. Both of us had spent our entire lives living in Rhode Island, and I'd been providing music for a parish there for a long time. Chris had spent a number of years working at a hospital. It felt like if we didn't try living somewhere different then, we probably never would.
I've come to find that wherever you live, there's always people there who have spent their entire lives in that location, and are quite happy and successful. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Some may never consider the possibility of trying somewhere different. Sometimes, relocation becomes necessary due to a new job or school, and the decision is made for us. And for some, as in our case, it's not necessary, but can be a thought and curiosity of "what if?" So I accepted the position (with all the usual accompanying trauma) , and off we went. The Ohio experience turned out to not be the total fit we thought it might be, and after about a year, a new round of "what if" led us to Louisville. Since then, many positive things have unfolded for both of us.
Recently, we returned to Rhode Island for a visit. There's always a sense of nostalgia when you go home. For us, besides visiting with family and friends and stopping at old "haunts," there was also the joy of comfortable temperatures and a nice ocean breeze - two things that Kentucky is sorely missing. Yet, here is a reflection I wrote while there:
"In the five years we’ve been gone, and even in the two years since our past trip, something has happened. As I look around places and streets that were once an ordinary part of my everyday life, I feel a strange sense of detachment. An area that was once so familiar to me that I just took it for granted as the backdrop to a busy life now seems like a foreign land, a vague flashback to once upon a time. Was it all a dream? Am I having visions of another life? Did I really travel up and down these streets, all hours of the day and night? Some places that were significant in my life still stand, while others have long been replaced by something new. What about the people who were a part of my story? Once upon a time, we were all on this journey of life together. Now, our individual roads forked and branched off in many directions. Endless memories pass through my mind, almost like scenes from a movie. Life goes on. Rhode Island goes on, as if I were never here. It’s almost as if people and places occupy seasons of our lives for a while, and then, just like in nature, seasons change."
If this is the experience after a shift of only about 900 miles, I can only imagine what it must be like for people who've moved around the globe. One of my favorite old 80s bands, Survivor, has a song called "Seconds Away." The chorus lyrics remind us that "we're seconds away from another tomorrow; seconds away from another hello; seconds away from a moment of sorrow; we're seconds away." If I wrote the song, I don't know if I would have only included the moment of sorrow part without mentioning its opposite, because the same could be said for moments of joy. But the point remains intact - life is an amazing adventure. In the case of Christina and I, Kentucky brought us many new opportunities and story lines that may never have happened in Rhode Island. Likewise, maybe if we had stayed in Rhode Island, there would have been opportunities and roads to travel that we subsequently didn't have (though those roads would probably have potholes). Maybe in some parallel universe we're experiencing that, but that's a whole other topic for another day.
If you take anything away from this, it's that life is an evolving story for each of us, and for all of us collectively. If for some reason you're experiencing a change, whether voluntary, one that was necessary due to some outside factor or was forced upon you by someone or something else, hang on tight. It may be a turbulent trip for a while, but the insights you'll gain, the expanded vision and wisdom you'll develop, and the opportunities you'll have for an even better tomorrow may just be worth it in the end. But should you decide to duck into a ditch to wallow in some good 'ol fear and you happen to bump into someone, don't be startled. It's probably just me, hiding out for a bit.