Dear Future Child,
I am writing to you from my college dorm in Kansas. I am not from here, but it feels like home. My other home, my childhood house and city is 200 miles away. Someday, I am hoping to move to Arizona, a warm, sunny place, where you might even be born.
I’m not sure where my true home is or if I know what it feels like, but I get glimpses here and there. Home isn’t a place, dear child. It’s a feeling. And I’m hoping that through my letters, my other writings, and my instructions to you as a mother (and a friend?) I can teach you where to capture that feeling.
As a child, you don’t get to choose where you live, how big your house is or who your neighbors are. I grew up aimlessly happy, and loved everything about my surroundings. I lived in the outskirts of a large city, the ideal location to be close enough to the buzz, but far enough to avoid the noise. I played in grassy fields and wooded areas with my brothers, my family grew flowers and vegetables, and we fell asleep listening to crickets, frogs, and owls.
Fishing in the cold and rain and knee-length jean shorts. (Notice how I refused to hold the nasty fishing line).
But as my primary childhood came to an end, I had to make a decision. There weren’t any upper level schools near our house, so I had to either go 15 minutes up the highway into the country or 15 minutes towards the heart of the city. Somehow, I don’t remember the choice being difficult, because maybe I was more easy going then.
I chose to stay in the country.
The school was in a town, a small one, and someday I’ll tell you more in depth about this kind of lifestyle. The rumors, the gossip, the drama, the drinking, the drugs, the abuse, all swept under the rug of the one road that runs through the middle of the town. Some people are raised to believe this way of life is how the world spins, despite being hidden behind fields of corn and beans. In fact, this is the common ideology for many, many families in the Midwest, and even America.
It took me four years to open my eyes to my potential future, and I quickly decided what I wanted couldn’t be achieved because of where I was, the habits I had formed, and who I had surrounded myself with. I left, honey, I left just as quickly as the realization was made.
As my teenage years came crashing over me, it was clear that I was missing something. This was the first time I questioned what in the heck I was doing here? Not in small town Nebraska, not even in the United States, but in the world. What was my purpose in life? Poor sixteen year-old me was confused and lost, trying to find home.
Daydreaming at 15 about a future here (Arizona).
I found condolences in my parents and family of course, but lost most of my friends who couldn’t see through the glasses I began to wear. These glasses showed me how terrible the world could be, and also how much potential lay on the other side of the country fields. I was led to believe that I was the only one who could save myself, and formed a personal escape mission called “college”.
Fortunately, I was detoxed from my previous adolescent years through a private education for my last two years of high school, and many doors and windows were open to aid my getaway. The thought of leaving my family (my mom and grandma?! How could I?) was horrific, but so was getting trapped in a mundane and monotonous lifestyle. I knew I was set on finding a place far away and warm, so I narrowed my options down to Arizona and Texas. I visited beautiful campuses and toured regal areas full of sunny hallways and trails, each with bright and shiny writing programs, and yet I left each place surprisingly underwhelmed.
What was missing? I was transported back a few years to the emptiness, the unknown location I found myself seeking but not knowing its name. I was discouraged and began losing hope, and my dad persuaded me to tour a school in Kansas, even though the thought of staying in the Midwest made me want to gag.
And from here, you can guess what happens next in the story. Our car pulled onto campus, and knew before even stepping out of the vehicle, before touring the campus, before I even looked in to the English programs, I knew that I was home. I didn’t tell anyone about this conclusion for a month, because I was embarrassed. I wasn’t about to give up my dream of an extravagant lifestyle on the outskirts of the country.
Overlooking the football field on my campus
I kept looking for a sign, something to tell me which direction to follow. And every night that I lay awake staring at the ceiling, the feeling in my chest returned when I thought of the buildings and the dorms and the sidewalks teeming with young life.
I am writing to you from a place that is in the middle of the Midwest, but it’s everything I’ve ever wanted for this time in my life. I have found where I belong, for now at least, and my only hope for you is that you can experience the same feeling of belonging.
I will do whatever it takes to show you the way, always.