Home Is Where The Heart Is?

Amish Country Farm
How much does where you call home define you?

It’s perfectly clear that where we were raised plays a large role in our character. I grew up in Lancaster, PA, a small town known for its Amish community, rolling farm lands, history, and conservative minds. I went to a small public school and graduated with 150 other sheltered youth. There’s no doubt that I would be a completely different person if I was raised in a large city or in the Midwest or if I went to a private all girls school or to a huge city school. That’s pretty obvious. 

But how about when you’re an adult? What happens when you’ve matured, changed from that sheltered and naive child, when you’ve traveled, moved around a bit? Does your home town still have that much weight in defining who you are?

Most conversations with new acquaintances start with a similar question, “Where are you from?”

It feels like they are trying to compartmentalize you, figure you out. Usually I just say, “Lancaster, PA” but others times I want to say, but I’ve also lived in Maryland and Chicago. Those homes are part of who I am too. I’m more than just a girl from Amish country. Maybe I feel like that because I sometimes feel out-of-place in my town.

As a teenager I’d often find myself in my bedroom, the door closed and emo music blasting, wishing to get out of this town. To be anywhere but here. Who didn’t feel that way at 16?

I never thought I’d move back to Lancaster as an adult. But circumstances changed and life made that decision for me. After ending a bad breakup in Chicago I had no job, no money, and nowhere to go but home. I took shelter in my childhood home and clung to my family and the familiar. I’m forever grateful for having a place to come home to and a family to take care of me.

As my bitterness resided I began to fall in love with my hometown in a way I never would have guessed. I was slowly turning back into the woman I thought I had lost but I was also turning into someone new at the same time. I liked the fresh air, even when it was full of manure. I liked the openness, the freedom to breathe. The downtown had gone through a renaissance since I had left 10 years prior and I enjoyed the new bars, restaurants, shops, and art galleries. There was a beauty in its simplicity. Cheap housing and no traffic didn’t hurt either.

I began to perceive it as something more than a town to escape. It was home. A place full of family history and memories and I clung to them dearly. 

But there’s still a part of me that feels like this town isn’t my home. And even if I do decide to stay here for the rest of my years that may be a feeling that never changes. Some days I’m content and others I am not. I am filled with wanderlust. We love taking day trips and weekend getaways. I often imagine what it would be like living somewhere else in the country or world. I consider comparing housing markets in different areas a hobby. 

Somedays Lancaster feels like home and other times it feels like a trap. 

I didn’t choose to come back and live here. But how often do we, as adults, get to choose our home town? Family obligations jobs spouses income all have a say in where we live. But does the location really matter? Isn’t home where the heart is?

My heart belongs to Ryan and it belongs to my family. I have too many ties to family and too little risk taking in my blood to be the type to drop everything and move cross-country or abroad on a whim. I’m too sentimental and too much of a planner to live a life going where the wind takes me. But even if part of my heart is here there is a little part of my heart that beats and yearns for some new experiences and for a home that feels like it completes me. 

There is too much out there to see and so many other women that I could grow into being.

If you could choose to live anywhere, where would you live? Forget about where your friends are. Forget about where you family lives. Forget about where you could get a job in your field.

They say live the life you imagined. They say home is where the heart is. What do you say? 

Is that even a question that warrants to be asked? Is it a silly romantic daydream? Is the yearning for more adventure simply part of the human experience?

What do you think? Does your current home town affect your personality? Does it play a big role in who you are? If you could live anywhere where would you live? 

Choose Your Own Adventure

Looking at everyday as an adventure Teenage Katie was a dreamer. As a high schooler, I had high hopes of adventure for my future. I was ready to take on the world, climb every mountain, sing every song, and live a full life.

I had visions of living in NYC, surviving on ramen noodles and champagne in a shoebox apartment where I poured my soul into becoming the next great American playwright. I saw myself moving abroad for a year, an independent soul-searching journey where I’d spend my days at outdoor cafes sipping espressos and scribbling away in journals. I felt certain that I’d spend a summer sailing the Caribbean on a small sailboat with a dashing lover. Don’t let me leave out my belief that I’d be married by 24 and a mother by 28.

When we’re a teenager, the future seems endless, filled with possibilities, brimmed to the top with hope and anticipation. I was a sheltered young girl living in a small town who couldn’t wait to get out and go on adventures and to “see the world”. Life was boring and I was busting at the seams for the future to come. My fantasies seemed so realistic to my 16-year old self.

I think you can safely guess that I never did live that bohemian life in NYC, or the solo expat life, or life on the sea. What happened to my sense of adventure? Do I regret this? No. Those fantasies fueled me with hope and pushed me to work hard and dream of a big life. To open my eyes to a bigger world.

But the bigger reason why I have no regret revolves around perception of self. What do all of my teenage adventures have in common? Soul searching. The main purpose of each of those adventures was for me to go out and find myself, find a purpose, find something to live for. I thought that I’d find those things only by living out huge dreams, taking big risks, and separating myself from all that I know. Oh how wrong you were naive Katie.

I named this blog “A Beautiful Little Adventure” because I like the daily reminder that everyday life IS an adventure. Why wait of big fantasies when every single day is filled with possibilities? I can see my teenage self rolling her eyes at me, mocking my “settled” and boring life.

I don’t regret not living out those big dreams because I have found myself. I found her on the adventure of finding lifetime friends in college and doing crazy things, I found her on the adventure of working jobs I’d never imagine myself in, I found her in the adventure of dating, I found her in the adventure of defining who I am and embracing my individuality.

I thought I should look up the official definition of the word Adventure.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines adventure as:

:  an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks:  the encountering of risks 

c:  an exciting or remarkable experience 

So yes, every day IS an adventure.

Everyday we are experiencing something new, taking a risk, and experiencing something remarkable. There’s the surprising fact that I am living back in my hometown, a place I was so anxious to run away from, and I’m enjoying it. There is the newness of everyday – the choices we make, the people we meet, the little surprises that come our way. There is the biggest risk of all time, falling in love and getting married. Giving yourself fully to another human being and committing for life doubles the risk and the surprises that life may throw your way.

The future used to look endless. Now life is rushing by so fast that some days I get whiplash and have to stop and recover and really look around. By looking at life as an adventure I’m choosing to celebrate all the moments big and small. From weekend getaways, to weekly friend dates, to even trips to Costco (free samples!). An adventure is waiting for you every single morning. With a little change in perspective you can see how big “your” world is.

As a teenager the world outside of yours was the one you wanted to be a part of. It was all about escaping the known. Living life isn’t about escaping. The adventure is waiting for you right here, in the present. I choose to embrace it, see all the possibilities it holds and do what I love.

line Today, I’d also like to share with you the story of Heather, Cameron, and Lily Von St. James. This beautiful family is a role model for changing your life perspective and living the adventure of life moment by moment.

LungLeavin'Day cancer

Eight years ago, Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma; a rare cancer that kills most people within 2 years of diagnosis.  She had just given birth to a daughter Lily, and was only given 15 months to live.  After a life saving surgery that included the removal of her left lung, LungLeavin’ Day was born.  

The purpose of LungLeavin’ Day is to encourage others to face their fears!  Each year, The Von St. James gather around a fire in their backyard with friends and family, write their biggest fears on a plate and smash them into the fire. They celebrate for those who are no longer with us, for those who continue to fight, for those who are currently going through a tough time in their life, and most importantly, they celebrate life! 

This will be the 8th year that we celebrate on February 2nd!

I encourage you to check out the LungLeavin’ Day website to read more about their inspiring story. (it is one very cool interactive site!)

What a beautiful reminder that life is what you make it. Choose strength over fear. Choose love over anger.