Returning to My Shire

I know – I dropped off the face of the blogging planet for a while.  First it was the Thanksgiving holidays, then sub work picked up like crazy, and now it’s packing, planning, phone calls, and all that other stress that comes with moving.  I’m now on my last day of a long-term sub job, while my suitcases sit half-filled waiting for the trip to Milwaukee tomorrow, and then the airport and a flight to Alaska the next day.  When I find a spare hour here and there, I want to spend time with family and friends before I move, so the blog had to take a back seat for a while.  But today the students are writing all class period, so I can write a little, too.

Over the weekend, I had a chance to go to a Christmas party thrown by some of my old college friends.  This party has been a yearly tradition for a long time, but it’s been several years now since I’ve been in town for it.  So after unloading a U-Haul into my in-laws basement and a trip to Kohl’s for some last-minute winter clothing, I met a close friend and together we made the hour and a half drive to the party.  We arrived around 7:30pm, and then we proved that we are no longer college-age by leaving at around 9:45pm.   Oh yeah.  We’re party animals.  But it was nice to see friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time. 

Sunday evening, when my husband and I returned to my sister’s house (where we’ve been living the last three months), she and her spouse were camped out on the couch finishing up an Extended Edition Lord of the Rings marathon.  We watched the end of the last movie with them, and I was struck by the relevance of a certain Frodo quote as he tried to feel at home, back in the Shire, after succeeding in his quest:

Bag End, as used in the Lord of the Rings films.

Bag End, as used in the Lord of the Rings films. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“How do you pick up the pieces of an old life?  How do you go on?  When in your heart you understand there is no going back.  There are some things time cannot mend.  Some hurts go too deep…and they’ve taken hold.”

Now, my situation is not nearly as bleak as Frodo’s.  I haven’t been stabbed by a ring wraith or carried the burden of evil around my neck through a dark lord’s domain.  But three years ago I left my little land of safety and familiarity, and coming back to them over the weekend was… interesting.

I’m still in the middle of my adventure.  I haven’t even hit the extremes yet, and people are already telling me that I should write a book.  I have moved across the country three times in three years.  I have lived in big cities on both coasts and in the small-town Midwest.  I have started over again, and again, and again.  I have built lives and become part of communities that my college friends will never know, even if I try to explain it to them.  I have faced stress like I never could imagine when I was still in the safety of my comfort zone, and I have celebrated success that I never could have dreamed.

I wonder, what will life be like if I ever return for good?  I sat on the couch at that Christmas party and listened.  I listened to the drama of those that will always be drama people, even after we leave the theater.  I listened to the care-free laughter and the gossip about the people who couldn’t make it.  Will I ever be able to really return to that world and those wonderful people who I love so much?  Will I fit in again with the Wisconsin/Michigan crowd that wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else?  They have lived comfortably in their zones of work, friends, family, and social drama.  I see them in their bubbles of life, like the inhabitants of the Shire were unaware of the world at large.  I know my friends have worries.  All adults do.  Some have been laid off and faced significant career struggles.  But I still feel a disconnect born from my years of adventure, the identity struggles of Seattle, the hellish stress of Boston, the extreme career challenges and accomplishments, and the families and church groups that adopted us and made all that craziness OK.

I’ve learned from the challenges.  I’ve had my priorities jolted in alignment.  I’m different than I was three years ago.  I loved sitting around talking to my friends that I hadn’t seen in a long time, but when the hostess spent 20 minutes haphazardly shouting out trivia questions and other guests shouted out answers, I began to get annoyed.  Three years ago I would have laughed and joined in.  This year, I stopped responding after 5 minutes.  I drove an hour and half to see these people (not counting the four hours to drive from Illinois to Wisconsin).  I wanted to talk, visit, and enjoy their company, not shout out random trivia facts.  Maybe if it had been an organized game I would have been OK with it – I don’t know.  I just get to see them so rarely; I wanted so badly to make the most of my time with them.  Because I do love them and miss them.  I think Frodo loved and missed his Shire as well.  But my adventures set me apart.  What will it be like when I return for good?

Maybe it will be fine.  Maybe I’ll be able to slip back into that life without a problem.  But somehow, I doubt it.  I think we’ll always be friends, but in my heart I understand that there is no going back to the days of the comfort zone and the simple life.  It’s just been too crazy for too many years.


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