When I was a child growing up in Kentucky, I belonged. I knew my family was all around me, both extended and immediate. I knew my neighborhood and what alleys would get me where the fastest. It was my home, my city, my whole world. I knew the color of the sky when a thunderstorm was coming, or worse that sickly green color the clouds turned before the sirens went off and everyone hid from the sky. I knew the smell of green grass in the summer time and the way it made my legs itch if I rolled around in it. All that and a million other things—just normal stuff that children absorb about the place they grow in.
When I landed in Colorado, I had none of that.
Colorado is so different from Kentucky it might as well have been the moon to me. I was completely lost and alone and deeply afraid. (And altitude sick like you wouldn’t believe). Louisville sits at around 300 feet above sea level and Colorado Springs is at 6,000 feet. That is an incredible difference. It just added to my misery. I hated Colorado for everything it wasn’t. I didn’t belong. Then my father moved us even higher up into the mountains and we were at 8,000 feet. Ugh. (Drink water folks, if you climb in elevation. Trust me on this. Drink it until you are quite certain you will slosh if you move. I wish someone had told me that when I got here so, you’re welcome.)
It has taken me years and years of living here and even loving it to realize the sense of belonging I was looking for wasn’t going to come from outside myself. No matter how long I lived here, I felt just that slightest bit apart from. Going “home” was always my back up plan.
I’ve jumped back and forth between Colorado and Kentucky several times over the years. I discovered to my deep disappointment, that you really can’t go home again. Once you leave a place, that place keeps going and changes in a million and one microscopic ways that you can’t define, but you can feel. And it hurts. It hurt me anyway. Your mileage may vary.
Belonging is a state of mind. You can be taken in by a place and still hold part of yourself apart. I have a pet theory that every place has its own spirit and power. I was always slightly out of tune with here. I wouldn’t be so bold as to presume after one revelation I was in tune and in sync with a place, but I’m a lot further than I was before it.
Happy is a flame inside, the higher it burns the warmer you feel. Belonging makes me warmer.