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.
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.
To 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.