Pulling up shallow roots
I have heard before that it takes about two years to feel settled anywhere, and, five moves later, I would say that feels true. Just when you begin to feel at home in your college town, you leave. The same was the case for me in graduate school, and my husband Dan and I kept moving, gallivanting, at the beckoning of the military, from Texas to Maryland to Virginia.
DC, our previous home, seemed an especially lonely place, even though it was the most densely populated setting I had ever resided. I have also heard it said before that sometimes the more people that surround you, the lonelier you are. In DC, there never proved a shortage of excitement, adrenaline, and activity, but opportunities to find connection were few and far between (I will say, before going further, that this is only my experience. I know that many people have made lovely homes in DC and do not share my opinions.) Between work, travel for work, traffic, and whatever margin was left for family and extracurriculars, most neighbors had little spare time for long chats by the mailbox, and most co-workers did not linger over lunch. Rather, it was always onward and upward.
But the tide began to turn, I noticed, during our second spring in the DC area. We had lived in our house about eighteen months, and the neighbors on the cul-de-sac where we would take our dog Gigi on a walk each day invited us for their weekend happy hours in their driveways. Dan and I had hosted a party the fall before, and to our surprise, we had a long invitation list and a full house. Our networks expanded, and we met friends of friends and could begin to the play the name game, and we began to know someone who knows someone. The hours suffering through meetups where we hardly knew anyone, the awkward gatherings with acquaintances, and the time spent with our GPS wondering around the city had been for good reason, after all. DC and Northern Virginia seemed less big, less isolating... more like home. We had begun setting down roots.
When we decided to move to Charlottesville, the painful part was not saying goodbye to the home we had showered with hours and hours of TLC, or leaving behind the great restaurants and amazing sites; it was disrupting the relationships, the feelings of comfort and ease, that had finally begun to take hold. We love where we are now--the mountains and rolling green hills and country roads, the slower pace of life and southern gentility, the memories from our college years--but we are also starting over once again. The neighbors are new and distant, the friendships immature and tentative, the local knowledge lacking.
We will get there again, I know, but it will also take us about twenty more months of hard work and investment as we lay down new roots. Sometimes I wonder whether it is worth it, when you know (or are not sure) if you will be somewhere forever, but deep down I believe that the only way to live is to give it your all, to live fully, exhaustively, so that no day is in vain, because we never know quite what awaits us in the future.
I hope, I pray, that this time, our roots will run deep, but only time will tell.