When you think about California what do you think of? Is it the traffic? Is it the noise? Is it the politics, or the movie stars or the beach or that Katy Perry song? When I thought of California I thought of all those things and what occurred was an overwhelming sense of panic, frustration, and excitement. I didn’t know what any of it meant. All I knew was the girl I was in love with was amazing and the distance was worth it. I didn’t know that only a few years later I would be driving the same roads over and over to and from work and school and home.
It’s an interesting concept. I’ve visited Grandma’s house enough to remember right where that needlepoint is hung. “Home is where the heart is” wise enough words to live by until you realize it’s been a long time since you knew exactly where your heart was. I’ve realized this struggle time and time again, but for the purposes of this particular letter, I’ll do my best to keep on track. I struggle with that though…there’s some metaphor about tracks and blazing tails that’s coming to me now but we’ll talk about it later.
Where was I? Yes - heart.
I can picture it in my head. It was November and one of my favorite poet/rappers of all time had started a writing contest. If you wanted in, all you had to do was write a poem inspired by a piece he had written on his last album and then add some hashtags and some “@” and wait for folks to vote on it. I think I got about three hundred views or so, pretty good in my book, but not a winner. I know. I watched the winner’s and hers was pretty good…I guess.
Jealousy aside, writing this particular piece meant a lot to me because I was connecting with people I hadn’t connected with in a while. I was calling out people I hadn’t talked to in so long I wondered if they even remembered why they were so important to me. Didn’t really matter. I was starving for connection, I was weary for home - my heart, and this was a way to reach out to it. I was/am a small plant in a big forest and am just one of thousands trying to make something happen for myself here. I was different. People don’t generally like different but I’m being me as best I can be. The way momma raised me. I’m opening doors for people, saying “hi” to strangers, being honest and genuine and in return I am, often, slighted and looked at with suspicion. LA is a big place and it’s easy to get lost or lose your self. I didn’t want to lose myself. I never want to lose myself.
I got to California and had more state pride than you could shake a stick at. I wore my boots everywhere, over-exaggerated my accent, wore my wranglers every chance I got. Talked about Texas like it was some far off place that required a secret handshake and an “I know a guy” to get there. The first time I went back home though…I was devastated but couldn’t put my finger on why. It was the exact same. Nothing had changed, it was the home I had been longing for since I left so what was the problem? What had changed? Why didn’t this feel the same? Everything was still on the same streets. Whataburger was still serving honey-butter chicken biscuits. Gas was still cheaper than anywhere else. What was the problem? I slowly began to realize that the only thing that had really changed was me…and I didn’t like it. I am a Texan, dammit, what’s going on? Why do I have the same sense of anxiety and stomach pain and loneliness I have in California? I had been living out of my element for so long and now that I’m back in a place that should feel like home…it doesn’t. My sense of home was gone and with it, my heart. Of course I didn’t say anything to anybody. We went about hanging out with friends and family and I kept a pretty good smile on my face but still…
I had uprooted myself from this place I had known all my life, not just the town but, the whole state, and attempted to replant in California and it wasn’t happening as easily as I, or my wife, would have liked. Ugh, my wife. This strong, vibrant, and incredible person felt the weight of my struggle more than anyone. We had just gotten married and along with the typical struggles newlyweds go through, she was carrying me through this hell I had found myself in. I didn’t have any real friends or any real relationships outside of her, our pets, some dude on Xbox live that would team up to shoot zombies, and the people I knew at work. I hadn’t gotten real close to anyone at school and, admittedly, didn’t really make an effort. I had met one guy from the church I was working at but was pretty apprehensive about where it would go even though it still, to this day, strikes me as a friendship that has been divinely ordained. I stressed about making any real connections with people because in my mind this was all temporary to some degree. It has taken years but it all boils down to a realization I had recently.
I haven’t planted my roots.
Oh I’ve invested in things and places and people around me but only so much. I’m still walking around carrying my roots in my hand trying to find a good place to plant them. What am I so afraid of?
Well if I’m going to be honest, like I told myself I would be when I started this journey then I need to come clean.
Of staying, of building, of investing into, of being invested into, of living up to my potential, of being looked at as a fake(we’ll talk about that later), of actually doing instead of talking, all of it and when I think about it, my heart reminds me it’s still there and instead of pumping, it’s pounding! As if to say “I’M HERE! LISTEN TO ME!” Planting roots means you’re staying put. You’re digging into the soil and allowing it to feed you, allowing yourself to bear fruit. What fruit do I want to bring to bear in this fast and confused land? I know what I want to build and it all starts with this right here. Actually putting my words on the internet for all to see. I don’t do this because I’m looking to matter to you, or to get “famous” whatever that means - I do this because I have decided to take a step towards planting myself. I’m making an effort to let myself take root here - to find home here...and let my weary heart rest.
Transition is a real thing (not to state the obvious). I don’t know about you, but it seems to be happening a lot for me in this season. It’s been a season of pruning and challenge. This stuff can hurt at times but I think it can be good for us. Transition is exciting, it’s frustrating, and it’s potential to terrify us is unmatched in many ways. Will Smith said recently: “The best things in life are on the other side of terror, on the other side of your maximum fear, are all of the best things in life.” If terror is the tunnel between you and the best things in life then transition is the train we take to get there and the fruit we are to bear is what’s standing on the platform waiting for us. Which must mean that pruning is the ticket taker and faith is the conductor. Which probably means we still have baggage and even though you checked your bag a million times before you left you still have to buy a new toothbrush when you get there because you forgot yours.
And I said I was going to stay on track this time.