Sunday, July 13, 2014

The King and I, going home again.

Growth.

One of the millions of tweets about LeBron's return to the Cavaliers last Friday caught my eye specifically. It read:

By this logic, maybe in a few years we can read the headline "LeBron James Returning to Mother's Womb."

I remember hearing about The Decision four summers ago. It was three months before I would hop on Twitter, so maybe I found out on Facebook? and I watched a replay on ESPN and cringed at the "taking my talents" line that kind of found its way into our lexicon for a little awhile after that. I remember the sound of all the cameras clicking furiously after "The King" uttered that line.

I was sitting on the bed in my little room in my first Charlotte home, upstairs at my best friend's parents' house. They'd been generous enough to take me in for the summer since I was earning enough to buy gas and groceries, but nowhere near enough to pay rent. It was hot and I had the fan going, and heat lightning most likely lit up the skylight above the bed. While LeBron took his talents to South Beach, I sat, feeling stagnant in the midst of transition. I knew I wanted to try out this city but I wasn't sure why, or for how long, or what was coming next.

It turned into four years of growth, challenge, frustration, joy, satisfaction, and a true crafting of a home from the ground up. I'm not talking NBA championships, but relationships, a city map in my head, a way to give myself a roof and a bed, extracurriculars that challenged my body and my mind, and a sweet, sweet man to talk it all over with when the day is done.

When LeBron announced his New Decision on Friday, his return, I couldn't help but chuckle. I was in the throes of my second day at my new job, just a block from the church and neighborhood where I spent my growing-up years. I moved back to my hometown less than a week ago, back into my parents' house for a quick three-month stint before my wedding. My fiance and I, both from this area, made the decision that we ultimately want to be close to family and community here. So when this job opportunity came up, I took it. Not without trepidation, not without sadness, but with the comfort of a support system and the hope that it will work out.

And as hilarious as it sounds, I couldn't help but feel that LeBron and I now have a little bit more in common besides the night we both watched Steph Curry rule the court against Wisconsin. We're both coming home, and we'll have to learn and experiment and discover who we are after a formative time away.

Back to the tweet, the "mother's womb" comment that caught my eye. "By this logic," it read, and I certainly take it with an air of humor and facetiousness - but I'm going to use it for my own growth in this moment in my life.

I've struggled a lot with the idea that coming back to my hometown to live is a giving up of sorts. (It's really funny, because I felt similarly when I only moved 30 miles from my college town after graduation instead of teaching English abroad or something.) For the life of me I can't figure out who exactly put this idea into my head. I typically chalk it up to media and society and globalization and ongoing Manifest Destiny, the many people who do move away from home and never return permanently. "Going home" is for when something bad happens, when you hit a bump in the road and have nowhere else to turn, when it doesn't work out, when you feel stuck.

Talking with a new friend the other night, she noted that too often the world frames going home as going back. Going backwards. Like I'm automatically going to become my 17-year-old self again. And when this transition is hard and frustrating I hear myself start to ask: Did I give up on my independent life away? Did I give up on what I worked so hard to build, should I have kept it longer, seen what else came? Am I moving backwards? Because I now am surrounded by people who have known me since I was born, does that make my life less... self-sufficient? rewarding? independent? Am I returning to my mother's womb?

In short: Did I fail somehow?

These questions arise out of stress, and out of being unable to see through the stagnant and yet fully-moving, fully-charged, haze of transition. I know that. I know that I am entering a time in my life that is truly different than any other, and would be no matter where we landed location-wise. Marriage. A new job. Huge responsibilities within both.

I will never be who I was as a teenager, or as a child. What I've kept from those years - lessons, memories, inside jokes, appreciation - I would keep anywhere. What LeBron said about Miami, I'll say about Charlotte: It is my second home. My years there enriched me immensely and I don't think I would have looked at home the same way - would have been able to go home - without that time, that place, those people.

I don't want to go back to the womb, to the very beginning. I want to start this new beginning with the people I love. I don't need my mother's womb; I need her embrace, and those of others, for courage and growth as we go forward in this familiar unfamiliar place. I want to experience the next beginnings.

And so I simply have to remind myself: there is no going backwards. Each new day, new experience, new person, new insight, assures us of that.

(I imagine King James would agree.)

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