When I’m in Louisville, Kentucky, on the border of southern Indiana, I see large Maple trees and gravel pathways lined with yellow patches of grass and fallen crisp leaves. A Beagle-Greyhound mix runs in front of me, sniffing at the brown speckled frog camouflaged by rocks and pebbles along the path. A man of 20, just starting out in the world, lights a cigarette nearby. And another man of 26 attempts to restrain the dog and keep her out of the way of the oncoming cyclist.
When I’m in Bethesda, Maryland, on the border of Washington, DC, I hear ambulance sirens and beeping horns of SUVs and BMWs. I sidestep an upraised brick in the sidewalk and bypass an orange cone of a construction zone, the latest in a series of luxury condo high rises. I pass by commuters listening to headphones and carrying laptop bags with their eyes glued to smart phones. I also attempt to drown out the noise of the city with my mood’s latest trend – this time dubstep. And then I move out of the way of an oncoming cyclist.
More than a year ago, I made the move from Baltimore to DC. And four years before that I made the move from Cincinnati to Baltimore. And five years prior to that, I left my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
So exactly 10 years ago, a few weeks from today, I ventured from my roots with no plans to return. Of my two brothers and various family members, I have so far been the only one to do so (not including those who left before me). But what I didn’t realize then was what I would be giving up and what I would never be able to have again: a home.
Sure I have created a foundation and multitude of connections and friends in the many places I have lived, but I have never settled. And even having lived in DC only a year, I know I will never settle here, either. I will go where life takes me (or at least until I get fed up and decide to move on). It seems to be a continual pattern in my life, but when I broke up with my ex-boyfriend of four years and jumped ship to DC, I knew I wanted to settle at least a little while.
I’m tired of moving, and I finally have a job I actually enjoy. This is where the professional part of me lives, but I have struggled to find the personal part. And when I went home this past August to see family and attend my 10-year high school reunion, I realized that is where my personal part resides.
It’s not to say I don’t have friends here. They exist, and I value them more than my insulin pump, but they are few and far between. And in all the ways I have been social and put myself out there this past year, I have yet to find new relationships. Sometimes it makes me sad, and sometimes it pushes me onward. Because I’m also unhappy if I’m not working or doing something productive with my life. So as much as I love being home with family and catching up with old friends, I can’t stay forever. I need to get back to work.
But what I have realized in the past 10 years is that because I hail from a place called Louisville, Kentucky, I will never feel truly at home anywhere else. And because Louisville doesn’t offer me the professional opportunities or travel accessibilities I need, I will never consider it home, either. So here I am, forever trapped by two different worlds, and yet not quite belonging. It is the gravel path I have chosen.
When I’m in Louisville, I see the fleur de lis represented in local businesses and advertisements, the same one that resides as a blue and purple tattoo on my right ankle. I feel silly wearing this tattoo in Louisville. We are all proud of Louisville. I don’t need a tattoo to show it. But when I wear this tattoo in DC, I feel proud. And when people ask if I’m a Saints fan, I say no. It’s a symbol of my hometown and reminds me of where I’ve come from.
When I’m in Bethesda, running along the Capital Crescent Trail, I am proud to be among so many active young and old individuals. And I am amazed at the overwhelming green overcast in this urban environment. I relish in the culture and history DC has to offer yet I am still able to lose myself in nature. I run across a small bridge on the Georgetown Branch trail and see a tortoise in the road, a dark contrast to the gravel.
I stop for a second to make sure it’s not dead. But it just sits there, alive as the vines that grow along the bridge’s edge. I keep running, but I eventually turn around. And upon my return, I cross the bridge again and see that the tortoise has moved on.