There is something surreal about flying over my old life.
The tiny houses look like toys on a model version of the past. The cars moving about as if I’m watching a video game. None of it looks real, yet it feels so familiar. The water tower that marks the neighborhood where my kids rode bikes, scraped knees, and built forts. The house that held dreams and arguments and hugs and laughter and work…so much work.
And love. So. Much. Love.
The YMCA, the church, the school…all still humming along. The office building where I methodically drove every weekday to build a piece of my identity…still standing. Funny how I assumed it would somehow crumble in my absence. Humbling to be reminded that it wouldn’t.
As the plane dips lower, I realize the houses aren’t tiny at all. They are HUGE. Why are they so big? Why do I suddenly feel so small?
Other life transitions work their way back into my mind, coming into focus as the airplane slices through clouds of forgotten time.
I left high school for college. So ready to get out in the world, knowing it was time to move on, but longing to go back to that first home football game. Once there, I remember thinking it just wasn’t the same. Then the realization hit that it was exactly the same. As if I had never been there at all. Humbling.
I remember this tiny/huge confusion happening then, too. The hallway I used to stride down as if I owned it, and the locker that had to be decorated to drip with my personality – both felt so insignificant now. How had this piece of my life that had seemed so big that it was my entire world become so small? So many fond memories, carried in my heart, not in the walls. Is this what they mean by bittersweet?
The town I moved to for college (multiple stoplights?!) seemed to dwarf my hometown – until I couldn’t go to Walmart without running into someone I knew. My dorm room felt huge with independence – until I finally moved into an apartment and realized how small that dorm room really was. Soon I stretched into a small house, and then traded for a series of progressively larger ones…it’s ironic to find myself longing for the simplicity of that tiny dorm room space.
I remember leaving college for my career. The comfort of in-between, independence blanketed in the security of parental support, given up for the pursuit of success. A lot of learning happened in that part of my journey. A lot of practice for real life. It intertwined with marriage and children and the kind of friends that are really family.
Growing. Changing. Chasing. Until forward became backward, requiring a pause.
That pause led to a decision to leave my career for my dream. I wrestled with it for years, torn by the decision. Certain I was going to let everyone down but exhausted from living out goals that weren’t mine. Once the decision was made, laying exposed and ready for judgment, reality taught me a lesson. Everyone was supportive. They were happy for me. So many told me what a difference I had made. But then it was over. I spent the last few weeks of my career invisible, watching a club I no longer belonged to.
How had this piece of my life that had seemed so big that it was my entire world become so small?
There’s something about going back that helps you move forward.
It became evident by how I spent my time during this visit to my previous town, what mattered and what didn’t. A candlelight Christmas Eve service with my church family, honoring my Savior. My multiple families – laughing, eating, and playing board games. Sharing life stories with my friends over steaming bowls of queso dip. A long walk with my best friend, discussing the purpose of life, followed by a “forgotten” book that landed us at our favorite restaurant one more time, where the waitress knows our order by heart. What matters is the love.
Most of my past will forget all about me. That’s okay, because most of it wasn’t real anyway. These transitions have taught me what to focus on. Each stop along the way is a piece of me, for sure – leading me to my husband, my children, my true self. But the only thing left standing at the end of each transition is love. Not lockers, or houses, or careers, or even a legacy. Only love.
There’s something real about flying over my life.
As the next plane brings me back from the past, I don’t even look to the future. The palm trees, the beach, the warm sun, the familiar feeling of home rushes up from the ground to greet me as we land. My children’s smiles, my husband’s hand on my back, guiding me to our car…all of it, invites me to be content in the now.
In the love.