Growing Home

Dedicated to my father, my mother, and my baby sister.

I have been running from my family for a long time. Ever since I can remember, I've been internally motivated to excel in my academic studies and athletic or artistic endeavors, pushing myself to succeed (what success means, I still don't know). My focus has always been future-oriented but I wouldn't call myself a dreamer. Paired with the fear of failure, a realist seems like a more appropriate title. "Do more" as my motto left no room for necessary self-care, purposeful conversation, or deep questioning and reflection. One question in particular I've been thinking a lot about is: Why am I running from home? Because there are so many things to do. Why are there so many things? Because life happened. Why isn't investing in family one of the things to do?  

Krista Tippett asks Kevin Kling in a conversation for On Being"What did you see then, in your childhood that you hadn’t paid as much attention to before?"

Kevin Kling's response, paraphrased:

I think mostly human connections...I do believe you spend the first half of your life running away from home and the second half trying to get back to home. And when I had my accident was at a pivotal point. I was still running away from home. I had my accident, and then this journey back to home coinciding with this person that now is searching back through these people, I’ve started to embrace people I used to run from, my parents and my grandparents, understanding them on another level, understanding the choices that they made at times that really either upset me or I didn’t understand. Now going back and reliving those times through a point of connection. And before that, my stories really involved adventure and travel. Again, that running from. And this has really created a different form of retrospect. And again, it’s person-driven.


If I had nothing - no job, no friends, no resources, and no direction - I would still have family. And for me, family isn't just Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, and so on. Family is going blueberry-picking at Maple Lane Farmer every summer. Family is waving goodbye to Mom before walking to the bus stop and waving to Dad from behind the starting block at a swimming meet. Family is experiences, family is memories, family is stories. Family is not just biology, titles, or bodies. Family is familiar, family is home.



Although I'm still navigating this new adult stage of life (and rather blindly), I've realized that I need to stop running. To stop running and to start finding my way home by understanding my family from an aged perspective. To ask questions, to spark conversations, and to listen (really, truly listen) to stories of their hearts. What was it like to move to a new country barely knowing the native language? What was it like to fall in love overseas? What were summers like when you were growing up? What kind of hopes and dreams did you have? Did you accomplish them? Did you ever feel scared or lost? Do you ever feel scared or lost now? 

As children, we put our parents on pedestals, idealizing them as having life figured out. They were somehow born into adulthood as these wise, accomplished, sane archetypes that hold all of life's secrets in their back pockets. Parents are everything to us - chefs, housekeepers, chauffeurs, lawmakers, tutors, actors, comedians, storytellers, Santa, and the Tooth Fairy. They help us make sense of our worlds. But parents are normal people (despite their clever disguises) who've made mistakes, experienced difficulties and loss, and have felt joy and love.

There are choices that we'll make that dramatically change our own paths and the paths of others. Most of the time, we don't share these choices (especially with our children) for fear that they will not understand. And you're right, they may never understand because they're your stories, your lessons, your experiences. For the person who may never understand, you must ask with an open heart and an alert mind. Ask for the sake of listening; ask for the sake of asking. Why? Because asking is knowing, knowing is alertness, and "alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity" (David Whyte). 


Turn Around, start the journey home.

What does it take for us to begin the journey back to home? Does it take an accident, a loss, or a tragedy (as it did for Kevin Kling) to force us to stop running and start returning? It might...and it's ok if it does. Just know that you can always embark on the path back to home; you can always just start. So turn around. Turn around and start taking steps with each point of connection through every story that is revisited and every question that is answered. I'm sure it will not be the same path as when you took off running; instead, the trees will stand taller, the dirt will feel firmer, the sun will be warmer, and the rain will fall heavier. Most importantly you'll be walking, not running and you'll have company because you'll be coming home.


Is it ever too late to turn around? Is it ever too early? What do we lose and what do we gain from turning around right now?


For me, beginning to understand my parents, appreciate their choices, and listen to their stories didn't happen when I ran - doesn't happen when I run. None of the knowledge gained from asking questions happens if I continue to run. I come from somewhere before growing into someone that I recognize and that I strive to become. Returning home is not abandoning the path of opportunities in my own life. Instead, it's a way to strengthen my roots and engage with the people that I'm eternally connected to on the highest level. So in a way, I'm growing home. 

Coming home: an aching to be tethered to strands of familiarity. Coming home is calling Mom to ask her how she cooked that one recipe, "you know, the one I always wanted on my birthday?". Coming home is seeing Dad waving from the bottom of the airport escalator, every time that I'm on my way.

Being home: an energetic release cradled in memories, lessons, interactions, and love. Being home is undeniably special; an experience impossible to describe without a deep sigh. Being home is realizing that my life moves faster than I ever wanted it to.

Home: including, but not limited to a place, a person, a sensory experience, a feeling of familiarity and belonging. Home is the smell on Mom's pajamas, that she carried from Mystic to Atlanta. Home is Dad's bedtime melody that I catch myself singing to my cat and humming to sleep, not remembering when it even began. Home is one-of-a-kind. Home is people. Home is family. Home is here, in my heart's center.