I have lived in eleven different cities in the last ten years. Four different countries. I started off as an itchy-footed college student, eager to explore the world. At some point I turned into an itchy-footed grown up, still eager to explore the world and share it with my growing family, and I’m lucky enough to have a job that lets me do just that.
Transience is something that I know well, and the minor headaches that go with it. Packing and unpacking. Figuring out logistics. Getting used to new mattresses. Dealing with language barriers. Stomach troubles.
I also know the deeper pain that comes with this lifestyle. We miss so many holidays, weddings, and funerals. Every single move is accompanied by tears; heart piercing goodbyes to places and people that we love. There’s always a promise of “we’ll keep in touch and visit,” and often we do. But often we don’t. There are so many people and places that we miss.
Yes, there is pain. But there is also peace that comes in those moments when you can fully savor the joy that makes those goodbyes so painful. There’s that moment about six months after you’ve moved to a new city and started figuring things out when you realize you are happy. You’ve learned how to go to the grocery store on a Saturday morning, greet the parking attendant, pick out the tastiest produce, share a joke with the cashier, and buy a delicious burrito from the lady selling them out of her pickup truck. You realize you’ve figured out a new routine, and you feel at home. There is a peace in having once again jumped into the unknown and by the grace of God landed on your feet, figuring out how to navigate a place and culture that to you is new. You feel comfortable here. You see the beauty of this place and it’s people, and you have come to love it.
You realize that desert sunsets and tacos al pastor have joined that pantheon in your head and heart that includes Caribbean palm trees, sunrise over Midwestern farm fields, hot chai and jellabies at Iftar, and Northern pine trees wearing a skirt of snow six feet deep. You realize that this place, where you are right now, is a place that you will miss deeply when the suitcases are again packed and the travel orders direct you to a new destination, which will bring it’s own puzzles, frustrations, and joys.
I’ve often wondered if it’s all worth it. Are these moments of peace, joy and clarity worth the pain and frustration that comes with the constant movement and separation? It’s a big question that I don’t yet have the answer to. What I do believe, though, is that ultimately we are all transient beings. None of us has a guarantee that our tomorrow will match our today. Moving cities, graduating school, growing up, growing old, getting sick, losing loved ones. We all face some, if not all, of these changes. I’ve come to believe that the simplest of joys is learning to love today, knowing that tomorrow will be different in ways that we at this moment might or might not be able to anticipate.
Yes, tomorrow will be different. I don’t know where I will be living 18 months from now. So I will love today, and eat all of the tacos al pastor that I can. This tour, like life itself, is short. I intend to enjoy it.