Tonight I met an old friend and her almost two-year-old daughter for an early dinner. We don’t get to spend a lot of time together, but the moments we do have are special. There we were, sitting at our booth, talking of relationships and jobs and the future, intermittently attempting to prevent her daughter from smearing mashed potatoes everywhere, when I started to realize how much I didn’t want that moment to end.
When I first came home from Oxford, the last thing I wanted was to stay in the States. I missed England. I missed the boyfriend I had just left in England. I missed the friends I had just learned how to love in England. I even missed the gruesome all-nighters and painfully long essays I had to write for my tutors in England.
What I didn’t realize at the time (but what is painfully obvious now) is that it wasn’t just the place that I missed, it was the people. Oxford was one of the most life-changing experiences of my life. For the first time ever, I got to experience fully what it meant to be myself, and how being myself had a lot to do with who I was with. I got to see what it meant to live in community with other people. And in the middle of the relationships, I also saw the beginnings of what I was meant to do with my life.
So I came home and I spent a lot of time grieving the loss of what I thought was a physical place. In reality, it was the loss of a place with others. Then I spent almost an entire year telling myself and the people around me that I needed to get back to England. England was the place I was being called to. England was where I was going to be happy. England was where my place in the world was.
It’s funny how some of the most life-changing moments come not during the loud and extravagant, but in the quiet and simple. Sitting in a booth at the back of a truck stop diner, watching a toddler kiss her mommy’s tummy and showing me where the baby is, I realized that finding my place means so much more than moving halfway across the world.
I was so busy setting my eyes on England that I forgot to look right in front of me. I somehow missed that even though my friends from Oxford are all scattered across the world, we still find time for each other. I didn’t see how much I actually do love Michigan. And now I’m seeing these things and I’m making new friends and I’m finding that I’m happy and I’m not in England and that’s a good thing.
England is still in the plans. When and for how long is a different story. I have a tendency to try to map my entire life out while I’m still missing some key pieces, but I’m trying to do that less and less. And for now I’m trying to learn how to find my place with the people around me; to be happy and trust that I’m going to find where I fit, even if it’s not where I initially planned to be.