I am struggling and failing to comprehend the extent of change that is about to take place in my life. 1810 days ago I moved to Redding, California as a just-turned-21-year-old. Here I built life and spent five years being shaped by it. In fourteen days, this normal will completely unravel in exchange for the new. Five years will come to completion as I get inside my little VW Beetle and drive clear across the country to new adventures awaiting in North Carolina. I’m going to be a Tar Heel. A transfer Junior. A Carolina girl. I’m going to be an Amy I haven’t been yet.
It’s hard to leave the place I call home–the only place in this entire hemisphere that fits under that title. This is where I found a house, lived with roommates, bought a car, started college, got a job, and built every piece of my 24 hour, 7 day normal. I know this place and this place knows me. I have my own cashiers, baristas, and spots for watching sunsets. The guy in the photo department at Walgreens knows me by name and would never make the tragic mistake of putting my prints on gloss paper. I can direct you to the best Pad Thai, and count out for you (on one hand) the places that will still be open after midnight.
When I walk around this town, I don’t just recognize its geography, I recognize something much more familiar–an image of myself. This place knows me so well because it has contributed to the making of me. See that stroke on my soul, that core value, that way I see the world? I can give you a patch of grass, a living room, or a square of carpet that painted that on me. That decision to go to community college? Let me show you the blackberry patch by the river where that happened. That lifelong friendship? There’s a chair in Starbucks where I’ll tell you what started it all. And if you drive up Market with me, we’ll come to a rise over the hill where Redding looks so beautiful, and I’ll turn the radio to 95.7, and you will understand how this is home.
All of this life, so real and meaningful, is held between the fragile lines of city borders. I’m clutching at the ends of it, afraid of losing it, knowing that in leaving, it will turn into memories. I don’t want that to happen to a beautiful beautiful life that means more than I can put sufficient words or feelings to. I think maybe if I can rehearse it enough times, it will transform into something more tangible, more permanent. So I point out the memories to myself and others as if I’m trying to say, “Don’t you see? Can you see how big and meaningful this is?” I want to walk the road a little further, stretch out the moments, paint the town in just one more color simply to see how it looks in that shade. Because all this normal when stitched together becomes me–a me that I have so loved the journey of becoming. And I won’t ever get to live this again. I won’t come back to the same life because I won’t be the same person. This new landscape is going to write new stories on me. Regardless of whether I understand or even really consent, this is going to change me.
Five years. The biggest part of my adult life. So much goodness wrapped between a courageous hello and a reluctant goodbye. I’m so glad I came. I’m so glad I have lived all these years of surprise and daring. I have loved not only this life, but the me that I have become in living it. I love what I have gotten to experience and how it has inspired, even forced me into change. But these years I am torn to leave never would have happened if I hadn’t stood in another place just like this one and been willing to start something new. These five glorious years happened because I left when I didn’t want to leave and I changed when I didn’t want to say goodbye. And it makes me wonder, what about my life is waiting to happen?