It has been an absolute blast to have Brazil as such a focal point in the media this last week, with the World Cup in full swing. Last week, Google had street view tours of different Brazil cities. Having lived there almost exactly 4 years ago, during the last world cup, I was eager to reminisce as I clicked through the festive streets of Rio and Manaus and Salvador.
An unexpected pang of homesickness hit me in the gut. The vibrant cacophony of colors and sounds. The joyful celebration that was in the very DNA of the culture. The graciously hospitable people who welcomed us with glee. I miss it! Yet, I only lived there for five months, so why homesick?
I suppose I can look back at any season of my life and feel that same intense longing to be back in that place as the wave of nostalgic memories washes over me. The cozy bright blue house I grew up in, tucked away in a cul-de-sac in small town Iowa, with the real fireplace crackling while we watched a Saturday evening basketball game, the hidden fort in my closet, perfect for getting lost in a book, and the spacious backyard, a blank slate for any imaginary world was the setting for an enviable childhood. Or take the eclectic place I called my second home in college– Lampost Theatre and Coffee Shop. Repurposed from an old funeral home. Coffeeshop in the front, theatre in the back. Apartments in the upstairs. Idyllic backyard, complete with oak trees and a stream… bordering a McDonald’s. A constant shuffle of chaotic projects, shared meals and inevitable dance parties, soul wrenching and digging deep conversations that were a part of everyday life. What can I say? It was home.
I think our hearts are deeply connected with the places where our souls have set down roots, patiently and quietly grown, or bravely blossomed in some way. Whether that was over the course of 18 years or a few short weeks, we feel a sense of belonging to that place, and naturally we can, at times desire to return.
I’ve been back to visit some of my old places of belonging- and nostalgic as it is, it is evident that things have changed. I no longer belong there. Driving back through my old neighborhood, it is surreal to see a place that is so familiar seem so strange at the same time. The house seems smaller, yet the trees are bigger. So much has changed in my college town too, and even in the things that are the same, there’s an awareness that I have changed. While it is right and good to come back to the former places of belonging, it is good to remember that it is in the past tense. I belonged here once. And it shaped me into who I am.
Someday I will leave the my current place of belonging for a new adventure. But I do know that I am planning on being planted right where I’m at for a while longer. I want to have my eyes wide open to the ways this place– my home, the people I share life with, my job and this city is shaping me, cultivating me, pruning me, and helping me to bloom. I don’t want to be stuck longing for a place that is no longer home. Nor do I want to be pining after some future home that I think will bring complete and ultimate satisfaction. I am where I am meant to be. Right here. Now.