Starting over is wonderful in theory. Do we romanticize anything more than running away? Of beginning again in a new city where no one knows our name or our story or our secrets? We crave a fresh chapter. It’s why we pop champagne on New Year’s Eve and feel renewed on January 1st. It’s why, even as adults, we look forward to the beginning of a new school year, when the leaves fall crisp under our feet.
But what no one likes to admit is that the reality of starting over is really hard. Like, quietly-cry-in-your-cubicle, hard. Packing up your things and jumping in the car is easy. But when all the pictures are hung on the walls and your neighborhood starts to feel familiar and you’re no longer the “new girl,” that’s when things get hard.
I’ll admit that during our first year in Charlotte, I simply skimmed the surface. Skated by socially. I told myself it was because I was overwhelmed by starting a new job, and training a new puppy, and finding my way around a new city, but the truth was I clung to the idea that when our lease was up, we would be moving again. We’d pack up our things and go on the next adventure. It wasn’t because I didn’t like Charlotte, I just wasn’t ready to say: this is it, this is my life, I’m ready to fully unpack.
But then in the spring I noticed a quote that really stuck with me: “Bloom where you are planted.” It’s a pretty common quote, and I’m sure I’ve seen it before, but this time around, I took notice. I often ask for signs, for guidance, and I believe this was a direct answer.
At first I wasn’t sure of its meaning, but it kept coming back to me, in posters and Instagram photos and Etsy listings. I researched its origins and its loose biblical ties, but came up short. And then I figured out that it’s actually quite simple: Flowers can’t bloom without setting down roots – the veins that supply water and nutrients and hold them in place – and neither can people. But for people, our roots are our relationships, our community. And that’s why running will never sustain us.
So I started saying yes, to happy hours and networking events and girls nights. I started asking co-workers about their families and their weekends and buying their daughters’ girl scout cookies. I started extending invitations to crafting classes and soccer games and Target runs. I joined the local PRSA chapter and raised my hand for two volunteer committees. I even started tooting my own horn to supervisors as if to say, “Hey! I’m all in.”
And then one Sunday morning, MPR & I took a joyride north of the city, plugging in addresses from realtor.com, and we found the most beautiful little neighborhood with narrow streets, bright white and rugged brick row homes, and softly glowing street lamps. The sidewalks were buried under runny piles of red, orange, and yellow leaves where neighbors stopped to chat while walking their dogs, and the winding streets led to a little park and a corner post office.
I turned to MPR and said, “This is it. This is where I want to live.”
For the first time, the thought of staying didn’t scare me. It relieved me. I’m not saying I’m no longer a flight risk or that I have it all figured out, but I learned that “home” isn’t found in just the right zip code – it’s cultivated. You have to put in the work. You have to reach out and allow yourself to be vulnerable. You have to choose to bloom where you are planted.