June 17, 2016

Yesterday, as we took down the pictures from our walls and the movers packed up our stuff, part of me wished that we could live somewhere long enough to settle down and plant roots. Friends of mine who aren’t military families buy houses and stay in them for years and years, building memories, remodeling rooms, marking the wall to show how much their children grow, growing gardens, and planting roots. Our children won’t have that wall, but I will be able to give them different kinds of roots.

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There’s a saying I hear a lot to encourage military spouses that I cling to in times like this:

“Bloom where you are planted.”

It’s meant to give you encouragement to thrive wherever you are. And I am on 100% on board with that.  In many ways, I love being a military spouse and I think I rock it.

But where I feel like I fall short is that I have always been afraid to grow roots too deep, because I know that we always will just have to uproot again. Whether we live somewhere for 3 years or 6 months, everything feels temporary. I’m afraid to buy something nice because the movers might break it, so I fill my home with things that are just okay. I’m afraid to buy that bookshelf because I don’t know if it will fit in our next home, so I just stack books on the floor of my closet where I can’t enjoy them.

When we first moved to Hawaii, I was afraid to make Hawaii my home. I was afraid to venture out and make strong connections because I knew I would have to leave. I didn’t want to have to go through the goodbyes, so I kept my guard up.

I felt like a tourist in my own life.

I didn’t even want to hang up anything on our walls or decorate. It seemed like a waste of time and money to hang stuff up, only to have to take it all down and fix the walls later.

But after a few months of staring at blank walls, I realized how backwards my way of thinking was. Why not enjoy what we have while we have it? Why not make this house feel like a home for however long we are here? Why not plant my roots and make Hawaii my home?

I learned that that those roots are going to grow anyway. How strong they are will depend on how well I water and nurture them, on how well I transplant them.

I realized that your roots don’t have to be planted in a house or one place in order to make you feel stable and secure. In fact, I think the best roots are grown on many different soils.

If you are a military spouse, an expat, someone who left home to chase a dream, or someone who has loved ones scattered all over the world, your roots grow in so much more.

Our roots grow in the memories we collect.

Our roots grow in the lessons we learn from the different places we live.

Our roots grow in the cultures we experience.

Our roots grow in our families, always welcoming us with open arms when we come home.

Our roots grow in the experiences we have that we never would have had otherwise.

Our roots grow in the people we meet, even if they are in our lives for short periods of time, and the things they teach us.

These roots make us stronger than we ever thought we could be.

DSC_4746To anyone struggling with feeling like they don’t belong, to anyone struggling with living far from home or with moving around all of the time, I want to offer this advice:

Know that you are building a different kind of root system, one that is stronger than any other because it can handle any kind of weather: droughts and storms, sunshine and shade. Your roots can grow in any kind of soil.

Know that being open-minded and adaptable are qualities that you build from being uprooted and replanted over and over again, qualities that will serve you well throughout your whole life.

Know that you will always find more roots in your families and friends.

Know that meeting so many different kinds of people thought your travels will give you many more different kinds of roots and make you more compassionate. We desperately need more compassion in this world.

Know that the strength you get from growing these different kind of roots will make you braver and stronger than you could ever know.

As we leave Connecticut, I feel ready to uproot myself, re-plant my roots, and bloom in Hawaii. This time, I won’t be afraid to put myself out there, to decorate my house however I want, and to buy that bookshelf. It’s a feeling of strength, strength that I think only comes from re-planting, re-growing, and re-blooming over and over again.

Hashtag fearless.

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24 responses to “Different kinds of roots.”

  1. Jennifer says:

    “The best roots are grown in many different soils.” I really like this. I agree that making the best of where we are and who we are surrounded by makes us a better person. It isn’t an easy lesson but it is an important one.

    I am glad you ended up enjoying your time in Connecticut. It is where I live and I think it has a lot to offer. It isn’t Hawaii though! I hope your move goes well.

    • Carolann says:

      I ended up loving Connecticut, so much more than I ever thought possible. This little state has so much, and it’s in the perfect place to explore all of New England. I love the wineries, Mystic, the cute little towns, and the farms. Part of me was hoping we could stay longer, but there are a lot of submarines and submarine schools here so there is a chance we will be back at some point. It’s sure not easy to pick up and start over and over but I do think it makes us stronger, and that is valuable to me. Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer.

  2. Such a great post today! I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it is to move around all the time. I know that this doesn’t even compare, but right after we got married we moved into an apartment for a few months before our house was finished. I refused to do any decorating because it wasn’t really “our home”. It makes me sad to think about now because that was the first home that we shared together, even though it was only temporary. Y’all really do go through so many different things as a military family, but you really do have a stronger root system than most people.

    • Carolann says:

      I absolutely can relate to that feeling of not wanting to decorate and I can see why you didn’t! A few months is really not long at all. I decided to put stuff up on the walls here in Connecticut because I wanted to enjoy where we were for as long as we have it, but I didn’t go crazy buying new stuff. I just used the nails that were already there and called it a day. I did the same in Hawaii and it just seemed a little bit off. We will be in Hawaii now for 3 years, so I think I will take my time setting it up and finally decorating!! I’m excited.

  3. Audrey says:

    It definitely takes a strong person to plant and nurture and grow that kind of root system. Sometimes I wish that we moved around a little more, but I know that I should appreciate and value what I’ve got (just like you value what you have!).

    My mom was an air force brat and she lived in different countries and towns all through her childhood. Those are some of her best memories and I love to hear her stories from Japan and Germany and England. Your children will be strong and independent and so educated because of the experiences they’ll have 🙂

    • Carolann says:

      I love hearing stories from adults who grew up as military brats, like your mom, because it seems like a lot of them loved seeing different places, moving around, and having new experiences. It seems like they grow up strong and independent and able to adapt to new situations. It’s something I thought about a lot before Nick decided to stay in the Navy, even though we are a few years away from having children. I think it will be good for them in many ways. But, like you say, it’s all about valuing what you have. You can give them independence, strength, and new experiences whether you stay in the same house your entire life or move around once a year. It’s all about making the most of it. 🙂

  4. Patty says:

    I am so glad I came across your post :))) and your blog. I am in a very similar situation – I am Polish and I live in Argentina. I miss my home, and leave with a constant fear whether I am doing good leaving my home, my friends, my country for a man I love… I can’t stop thinking of it – whether it’s a good choice or not… I hope that one day I will figure that out and my mind will quieten…

    • Carolann says:

      Patty, I think that if you stick with your gut, and are true to yourself, you will make the right deciision. I hope you have the answers you seek soon and that this post helped you sort out some of your feelings. It’s so hard to pack up and leave behind everything we know, but sometimes it can be a great adventure. And sometimes, home is where we need to be. Good luck.

  5. Rachel says:

    I know the feeling of not wanting to hang up pictures, not really wanting to make a house a home when you can only keep as many belongings as fit into two suitcases and a carry-on everywhere you go–ha! But you’re right, it doesn’t mean you don’t have roots, just that they’re different.

    • Carolann says:

      It took me a long time to realize that they are just different roots. For a while I lived with a lot of guilt about whether or not we are doing the right thing, and whether or not this will be a good life for our (future!) children. But I’m so at peace with it now and I couldn’t imagine it any other way. We have roots all over the place and I think that is a good thing. Thankfully for us, the military pays for movers. I really cannot imagine packing my life into 2 suitcases — you must be a pro!

  6. Sarah Bence says:

    I can tell you are also a reader…your writing is beautiful 🙂 And it really resonates with me, obviously not as a military wife but as someone who lives abroad…your roots become deeper, wider but also more complex, which can be a good and sometimes even bittersweet thing.

    • Carolann says:

      Wow thank you, Sarah. You really are too kind. I feel like I’ve connected with so many expats here in the blogging world because we have such similar experiences moving far from home, uprooting ourselves willingly for the sake of adventure and experiences. I love hearing that you feel the same way because it makes me feel like I’m not alone with these bittersweet, mixed emotions. You know how hard it is to keep doing this, but also how rewarding it is.

  7. Emma says:

    I’m going to sound like a crazy person, but weeds have strong but shallow root system for this exact reason. Oh, and beautiful dandelions and daisies are weeds..

    • Carolann says:

      So interesting! There definitely are some beautiful weeds out there. I LOVE dandelions — my purse is covered in drawings of them. I am 100% serious. I will be a weed if it means I get to bloom anywhere I’m planted, make wishes, and thrive no matter the weather. You are a smart one 😉

  8. Mandy says:

    Hashtag fearless indeed!

    We moved around a lot when I was a child and before our last house, I’d never lived in one place for more than 5 years. Nowadays, I go ahead and forge relationships. Some of my strongest friends are with friends on the other side of the globe. I no longer let geography get in the way when I can share a pot of tea and some biscuits with a friend in New Zealand.

    • Carolann says:

      You are so wise. I love having friends all over the world, most of them are friends I have made who have moved away, onto bigger and better things. I can’t imagine my life without them, even if they live thousands of miles away. Skype is a beautiful thing. I know I shouldn’t be afraid to make friends wherever I live and I feel like I finally have the wisdom to know that it’s worth it.

      • Mandy says:

        Ha ha. Some say wisdom, some say old age. I think you’ll be fine. Always know that your blogging friends are here for you for when it becomes. But scary.

  9. Ahila says:

    Lovely post. I can relate to the feeling of ‘temporary’ and not wanting to invest in a house, knowing another move would be coming up. Glad that you also feel the roots that people who have to constantly move around is the connection with people around us.

    • Carolann says:

      Absolutely. Home has come to be a feeling rather than a place, and I’ve come to love that feeling. I can feel at home with my parents in New York or in Hawaii with my friends. It’s wonderful to have so many places to call home, I think.

  10. great post! I can’t imagine a military wife lifestyle but then again all the moving does bring a lot of good stuff too:)

    • Carolann says:

      Thank you! It’s so hard at times, and every once in a while, I wonder why my husband and I do this to ourselves! But overall I love it and all the change and moves and new experiences!

  11. Anna Parker says:

    Memories and experiences. The life of a military wife must have such highs and lows

    • Carolann says:

      It’s so interesting that you say that, because before my husband committed to signing another contract, that is one of the things that we talked about. A high-ranking officer made my husband think about the fact that life outside the military can be more stable emotionally, but when you are in the military, your lows are LOW and your highs are crazy amazing. In the end I decided I would take the lows for the great things that also come and so far I think it’s worth it.

  12. This is SUCH a beautiful post – thank you for sharing it, Carol-Ann! I love how you have articulated it – our roots can bloom in many soils. So true for the expat life!

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