It was a warm October day just a couple of months ago that I stood in front of my second grade classroom in rural Utah, and pointed to a colorful map of the United States surrounded by photographs of my students.
"54 years ago, I was born in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois," I told the children, as I pointed just west of Lake Michigan."The following spring, when I was still a baby, my parents moved our little family to Amherst, Virginia." My finger moved eastward on the map, by the Atlantic Ocean, to the heart of the state of Virginia. "When I moved to Utah after high school to get a college education," I told my little ones, moving my finger almost all the way across the U.S., "I ended up staying in Utah, and I raised my children here. Now I find myself getting ready to return to Illinois, where I will marry my best friend, Chuck Bennorth."
"It's a circle story!" one of the children exclaimed! I smiled. Yes, it is, indeed a circle story, one that ends in the same place it began. And this particular circle story does not only take a circular path geographically speaking, but emotionally, as well.
When I was a little girl, laughter came easily. I believed in fairy tales and happily ever afters. Over the years, my life lessons shook my beliefs more than slightly, and I began to lose faith in ever finding a Prince Charming of my own.
It wasn't long after I met Chuck that I knew I had met someone special. I could be myself with him, and I felt safe enough to be vulnerable. We were soon caught up in each another's stories, and knew our hearts had found a safe place to call home in one another.
Someone was asking about my plans to move to Illinois. "Aren't you a little scared of moving so far away?"
Without hesitation, I answered, "Not at all. I am confident I'm doing the right thing for me."
"You've always been kind of adventurous, though."
Yes, I suppose I have been adventurous, although I'd lost sight of that for awhile, it seems. Moving 2300 miles away from my girlhood home to go to college took a sense of adventure. Deciding to settle down in Utah to raise my family, so far from my parents, required a bit of bravery. As I look back on my life, I can see where I have wandered from my adventurous path, attempting to do the right thing or the safe thing, but I have always been happiest when I follow my heart.
It does feel like a fairy tale, at times. The timing was perfect, if not quite a bit later than either of us would have desired, but everything just seemed to fall into place once we found each other. We can see that we have something special together, and it never would have worked with anyone else.
All of my life, I've been a bit of a chameleon, trying to fit in, and blend into environments where I may not have exactly belonged. It wasn't until I read Brené Brown's book Daring Greatly that I began to know the difference between fitting in and belonging. Finally, I feel like I can be who I am meant to be; an occasionally serious, and sometimes silly, woman, who loves children and words and baking and hiking, someone who loves to laugh, and who has the best of intentions of living her life fully present. Chuck loves me in all of my moods, and can appreciate my quirkiness, and he loves me in such a way that I feel completely safe being myself. I belong. I no longer feel like the square peg trying to fit into the round hole.
I found this quote by Kirsten Smith from her book, The Geography of Girlhood, and I thought it went perfectly with this picture of Chuck and me. "And we laugh and laugh and all I know is at this moment I feel like I can do anything I want and be anyone I want and go anywhere on the globe and call it home." I know that with Chuck's love and support, I can do anything I want and be myself, and as long as I am with him, I will know that I am home.
I am returning to the land of my birth, and my spirit is settling back into a comfortable spot of loving and living fully, just as it used to when I was a young girl. Yes, my life has come full circle, and I am the princess who has finally found her prince in this circular story. My sweet prince and I are planning to live out our days, happily ever after, forever and ever.