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Patchwork of Places

This article was sent to us by Brooke L., a college junior stationed in Virginia. Do you have a story to share with your fellow military teens? Visit our writing page to find out how you can submit to Bloom!

Where do I belong? Where does someone with no single hometown truly belong if not with family and loved ones in every place they have lived or visited? But what happens if those people leave for other places? Where, then, would I belong? This question has come to mind frequently since I learned that where someone is from is a big part of their identity.

Do I truly belong nowhere, as it's been made out to be? As a military kid, I've grown up not knowing what is to come of me when my family leaves for a new place - new house, new school, new friends, new life - every two to four years. And every time we leave, I feel as though I've left a piece of myself back there, a piece I won't be getting back. But even if I could go back, would it be the same? The situations have changed, forever leaving that version of me trapped in the past.

I will never again be six watching the Northern Lights in awe or exploring the woods with neighbors in Maine. North Carolina brings chaotic middle-school stories, followed by the end of my adventures of living on a 200-year-old naval island with strangers who became family. We garner the nickname of ‘dandelions’ because we bloom where we are planted, similar to weeds, but it doesn’t tell the deeper side of the struggle associated with thriving through uncertainty.

Changing and adapting to whatever is thrown your way is one of the biggest parts of life. We are meant to change, and change has taught me innumerable lessons along the way, preparing me for a future of uncertainty. However, due to the lack of consistency, I was constantly anticipating the next change thrown my way. I was always on high alert - in survival mode.

After graduating high school, I realized that I spent way too much time preparing for the worst in order to protect myself from whatever harmful thing might happen next: a tactic that got me through so much but always left a negative connotation associated with every new place. I lived in a sense of danger and impending doom. Resentfulness built inside me, corroding each place I moved to, longing for the memories of the past.

Coming to terms with belonging anywhere and everywhere I go was particularly difficult on a level of deeper understanding. To say it is one thing, but to truly believe it is completely different - to believe that life is not always about what just happened and what will happen next, but what is happening, while making the most of every opportunity you are given. If you let your reminiscing of the past become resentment of the present, you will miss out on countless experiences (a lesson that took me the majority of high school to learn). It was those experiences, the changes and moves, that made me the person I am.

When I began examining the ins and outs of my life and childhood, I imagined what life would be like if my dad had a different career - one that did not require us to move around. What would my life look like growing up in one place? I never would have experienced the pain of leaving friends so frequently and the dread of starting a new school again. But, I also never would’ve lived the memories and lessons that shaped my unique thought process or met some of the people I love - the people I couldn't imagine life without. My life would be drastically different. I would not be the person I am today. Even with knowing about the pain I have experienced, I would still live the life I have a hundred times over, because without it, there would be no me.

I belong anywhere and everywhere I have lived and will live. I say I am from everywhere, but it does not do justice to the people I have met and the places I have been. Just how nothing in this world could make me give up that part of my life, nothing could make me want to anymore. I am a product of everywhere I have lived and the memories I’ve had. Nothing could make me change that, even the promise of certainty and normalcy.


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