A few thoughts on gardening. Of the metaphorical variety.

Dear friends,

selfie

A few years ago, I heard a colleague say “It’s always a good idea to re-pot yourself every now and then.”

He was talking about professional transitions and the benefits of new jobs, new perspectives and new challenges. About that same time, I was planning to re-pot myself in the fertile soil of Missouri and another colleague warned it would take two years for me to feel fully adjusted and properly rooted. I remember the comment gave me pause. “Two years?” I thought. “I hope not.”

Turns out, both colleagues were right.

My re-potting was a great move on many levels. Though I was originally the one who instigated our transition, I think it’s fair to say all my family members now agree that the change of scenery did us good. I can confidently say we are happily settled.

So much so that Saturday night — when Mr. Mom and I hosted some newcomers for a friendly tennis match and dinner at our home — we played the roles of natives rather than transplants.

The couple has only been in town 11 months. The husband travels frequently for his new job and I could tell that the move combined with frequent spousal separations meant both he and his wife were missing their east-coast hometown terribly. I told them all the things we had come to appreciate about the community and urged them to reserve judgement for two full years.

The husband seemed surprised. “Two years?” he asked, unable to conceal the concern in his voice.

“I know,” I said. “I reacted the same way. But truth be told, if you would have asked me at the one-year mark, or the 18-month mark if I felt settled, I would have said no. And I might have sounded wistful about home. But now, at the 26-month mark, I truly feel like this is our home. We have friends. We feel connected. We belong.”

Our new friend expressed more surprise. “But don’t you miss home?”

“Sure I do,” I said. “But I miss it in a different way. Home will always be home because it’s such a comfortable place to be. And I’m a long ways away from lifelong friends, as well as professional relationships that spanned decades. But as much as I miss my old friends, I don’t feel homesick and I don’t miss living there anymore. I don’t rush at every opportunity to visit home. And that’s how I know I’m rooted here.”

I started thinking about the necklace I was wearing — a pendant of my home state that I purchased recently to support the relief fund for the devastating tornado in Moore, Okla. I’ve worried that my Missouri friends might view it around my neck and consider it a symbol of homesickness or discontent when, in fact, I feel more comfortable and settled than ever. I finally have a dear circle of friends who have heard my stories and I’ve heard many of theirs, which means not every conversation requires a set-up. I am a long ways from knowing everybody — like some who have lived and worked here “forever” — but I’m no longer the kind of lonely foreigner who has to actively seek out social opportunities, or ask for referrals for doctors or plumbers, or ask “Who’s that?” every time someone outside my family and co-workers are mentioned. And I’ve finally learned the short cuts and back roads to many of my favorite destinations, which is a sure sign that I’ve transitioned from outsider to local.

So I like to think of my Okie pendant as a talisman, suspended near the heart of an ex-pat who’s successfully transplanted and throwing out roots in all directions of her lovely new garden.

With gratitude {for the perennial sunny spot in which I always seem to find myself},

Joan, who can only claim success in metaphorical gardening and has the dead or struggling plants to prove it

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Comments

  1. I recall taking a newbie to my town out to a local hangout for lunch just a few weeks after her arrival. Looking at the menu, it hit me. “You don’t have a favorite item to order anywhere right now, do you?!”. She laughed ruefully and admitted, eating out is a different enterprise when you are never quite sure what to expect.

    You are quite the illustration of that saw, “bloom where you are planted”. And true to form, you are extending the comfort/s you have found to other relative newcomers. What a wonderful way to pay your town’s welcome forward.

  2. We have always prayed together as a family. It is our tradition and everyone who visits with us is included. It is generally focused around our dinners together but it is much more than the simple grace I grew up with. Victoria, my youngest who is now 20 (how did that happen?) used to pray to move. She was the ONLY one of her vast number of friends who had lived in the same house for 7 whole years, sniffle, sniffle.
    As we enter our 25th year in the same home, which by the way we never planted perennials because we didn’t plan to stay very long, your post has made me pause…..I don’t know if I feel like a local or outsider…..interesting, very interesting…..
    p.s. love the necklace!

  3. Love the “re-potting” metaphor. I’m a weed who has re-potted so many times my roots don’t even have dirt on them….

  4. “Bloom where you are planted” is printed on my retirement business card.

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