Since my sister is leaving on a mission to Brazil in just a few weeks, my own experience with leaving home has been on my mind. I thought I was ready to leave and I knew deep down that I wouldn’t be back for a long, long time. Not permanently at least. I left my hometown in Utah a week after high school graduation to become a nanny for a family I had only spoken to over the phone, and although I had watched children before and was prepared for the feelings of excitement, anticipation and homesickness, here’s a couple of things that I didn’t expect to gain from the experience:
I thought I already had one. I had lived with and babysat my younger brothers for years before I left, and thought I knew them pretty well. When I finally left home and would phone my family, all of them seemed busy except my youngest brother J. He surprised me with how much he could talk– he’d been holding out on me! I would sometimes call when I knew only he’d be available and we’d talk for hours about his soccer endeavors and my nanny experiences. During the oldest of my younger brothers (M)’s preteen and early teen phases, I was able to relate to him through texting. I realized him and I were more alike than I had originally thought, and it was comforting to be able to relate to someone who knew exactly how I thought.
2. A greater love for all things “home”
Home was largely synonymous with good food, so my first year in Washington I made all sorts of food that I ate growing up. I was dating Sean by then, and so enlisted him in my effort to cook myself home. Unfortunately, weight gain insued (mostly on Sean’s side due to my leftovers going to him), and I turned to another aspect of home– dieting.
3. A greater foundation of beliefs
I thought I had strong beliefs before I left, but living away from my parents meant I had to figure out what I wanted to believe because no one was going to help me foster my beliefs without effort on my part. At home, we all went to church together, all had rules in place with consequences if those rules were broken. My new freedom taught me to reevaluate my beliefs and I had to learn how to live my beliefs, sometimes the hard way.
4. A renewed sense of family
Leaving home meant I had more meaningful talks with my sister and parents, and longer letters one of my older brothers while he was serving his mission. It also meant that I could find family here in Washington. The family that I nannied for became my family; their grandparents became “Grandma” and “Grandpa” to me, if only for the time I was with them. I was privledged to get to know one set of their grandparents particularly well as we explored Disney World together, and still cherish some of the artwork that the grandma painted and sent me copies of.
5. A new love for people
In Utah, many people shared my same religion and core values. In Washington, however, I was lucky if there was anyone in the same neighborhood who believed in the same things as I. As I branched out and got to know people with vastly different backgrounds, beliefs, and values, I learned to find our similarities and began to love them. I began to understand the saying “variety is the spice of life” in relation to people, not merely the activities that I choose. I enjoyed the company of the Asian violin teacher and her stories of growing up. Got to see through the eyes of those who have served our country, and heard the heart-wrenching stories of tours in Iraq. I ate tamales from a beautiful latino woman who made them to help feed her family. I made friends with a community of elderly couples who take trips all over the world. I have learned that despite our differences, everyone has a story and everyone deserves to be loved. As I realized this, I found a new family in Washington. Not one to replace those I already had or continue to have, but one that continues to grow depending on where I live. One that I am not able to call up often, or even see members of ever again, but one that helps me understand the world around me in a better light. No matter where I go, there is love.