Rooted and Unsettled

Over the last two weeks I’ve been traveling around the Midwest and Texas, playing pickleball exhibition matches, giving lessons and selling paddles. I’ve driven over 2,000 miles and worked 7 days a week. It’s been a fruitful, tiring and long trip.

As I’ve traveled, I’ve gotten to reconnect with my extended family across the region. I’ve stayed with aunts & uncles, second cousins, first cousins once removed – you name it. I love getting to meet these people as an adult, learning about how I’m connected to them and the interesting tidbits about our family tree.

It’s fascinating to me how rooted my family is in the United States. For at least 5 or 6 generations on each side, my entire family was born here. That goes back into at least the 1800s. Many have been here much longer than that. I have slave-owning ancestors in Georgia. There are abolitionists Arkansas. As legend has it, I have native American blood from Oklahoma. I get the sense of being rooted here, like I should belong because my family has so much history.

So what the heck happened to me? I barely qualify as American and although I have history, when asked where I’m from I don’t always answer America. It’s more complicated than that. I often wish for the simplicity of being from a single place. I wish I could be content never leaving, able to invest my life somewhere. I would know people, have unquestioning resolve in what I believe and listen to the global news with a concerned but uninvolved interest. I wouldn’t have any skin in the game. I wouldn’t have to answer the question, “Where should I live?” because it would be answered for me and other questions like “what should I do” and “who should I marry” would follow easily. When eating a banana in America I wouldn’t have to think about how much better it was in Africa. Life would certainly be simpler being from one place; not necessarily better, just simpler. Yet for one reason or another, that is not my story.

It makes me think of this quote:

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

It is hard knowing people around the world. Yet I wouldn’t trade it for anything – It’s now on my bucket list to know someone from every single country. People are the same everywhere, but the hardships and struggles that they have overcome in some places are baffling. After hearing those stories, you can’t ever go back to not caring about what happens in other places.

One last comment. I recently listened to a book called Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche from Nigeria. What a cool name. Anyway, it made me laugh thinking about the funny quirks of Africa and how similar African cultures are. It also made me think about what it means to be an immigrant and the value of knowing more than one place. I would definitely recommend it, as in many ways it mirrored my own experiences.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading

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4 thoughts on “Rooted and Unsettled

  1. I very much relate to this Catch-22 of life. As I face the remaining months of my contract, I am both certain I want to leave as well as unsure of where I want to go. I desire to both travel more as well as find a place to put down roots. I want a place to call home, and the only thing I know id that it is none of the places, stateside or otherwise, in which I have ever lived.

    And sometimes I wonder if this wanderlust is part of being an American. The country was settled by immigrants who wanted to leave so desperately that they did so, even knowing they would never be able to visit home again. I think of Charles Ingalls – the father in the Little House on the Prairie series – and how he never wanted to live within the sound of a neighbor’s ax. I think of the people who risked death on the Oregon trail. Even the Native Americans are those who traveled through the northern most parts of Asia and over the Bering Strait. They pushed on, not knowing what they would find when they got there. The desire for a place to call home is in our blood, but so is the wanderlust. It is all part of being an American.

  2. That’s one of my absolutely favorite travel quotes! And I agree with what you said – how hard it can be to know people around the world yet how very very worth it it is. Loving people from different backgrounds is, I think, one of the best things you can do for yourself and for the betterment of the world as a community.

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