The house is quiet now and my, my heart is full…
I turn out the light and I whisper goodnight
And I know, this is where I belong…
–Rachel Proctor, “Where I Belong”
I’m in love.
Butterflies of excitement awaken with the sun each morning, followed by a sigh of contentment as I settle in to sleep each night. Every day, it feels like there is so much more to learn, to discover — some adventure that I haven’t yet experienced but that I’m only too eager to embark on. Every step takes me closer to the knowledge that I’m living a dream, surrounded by people who help make that dream a reality; every wave, every chat, every warm, smile-filled greeting alights my heart and tells me that, yes, maybe this is what I’ve been waiting for.
And maybe, just maybe, this is what meant to be.
I don’t know how it happened, exactly. Oh, I made all the right moves — I planned and analyzed and questioned the possibilities; I reflected, I calculated, I wondered “what if“ and “could it be?” I paused, I hesitated, I thought, “this is crazy.”
But life has a funny way of pushing you forward, right into the arms of something wonderful, something that, though you could have imagined it — though you may have even dreamed it — even you couldn’t expect the reality of it.
Sometime, in that vague space between then and now, I fell in love with a house, a town, a life that I still can’t quite believe I get to call my own.
And for the first time — possibly ever — I’m not questioning what I did to deserve it or worrying about what will make that change; for the first time, I’m not thinking about everything I’ve lost and wondering if I’ll lose something that has become so dear to me again.
For the first time, I’m appreciating what I have right now, in this moment…and what it has taken to get here.
Dear friends came up to visit me for the weekend; we spent Saturday afternoon on a quick tour of Lancaster before walking the streets of Lititz. Among the shuffling of our sneakers against the pavement, the sound of the church bell marking the time in the distance, and children’s shouts echoing in the park, I couldn’t help but feel that I suddenly belonged, that maybe I had always belonged in this little town that my neighbor claims to be Mayberry, that friends and I joke is my very own Stars Hollow, only, I hadn’t known it.
Growing up nearby in the suburbs of Lancaster County, reading books like A Tree Grows In Brooklyn and Little House on the Prairie and watching movies like Pollyanna and, yes, TV shows like Gilmore Girls, the idea of being able to walk everywhere, of having a place where “everybody knows your name,” was always more than appealing. The towns in those books and on television seemed so old-fashioned and quaint, frozen and marked for a better time, a better place — a small piece of history that was never forgotten.
It was something I dreamed of, but I wondered if it was only a dream or if such a place could possibly exist.
I wanted to go away to college after high school, that much I knew for certain — away, but still close enough that it didn’t feel so far away. I fell in love with a small college town nestled in the middle of the mountains, a river winding its way alongside railroad tracks and roads, among between trees and dormitories. It was that picturesque landscape I was looking for — that walk-everywhere, wave-hello, become-a-regular type college town that was big enough, but not-too-big, located between the much, much larger We Are Penn State and the city of Williamsport. It was idyllic, it was quaint, it was everything I wanted from a college experience.
It made four years away from home feel like I was right at home.
Then, I graduated. And suddenly, I wanted more than anything to move away, to experience the hustle and bustle of a big city with large crowds and constant conversation; I craved the adventure and everyday excitement that I envisioned life in a big city to be, the life that everyone talked about: I imagined catching up on reading on the subway, meeting new people in coffee shops (never mind the fact that I don’t like coffee), climbing the corporate ladder at a respected publishing house. I wanted to move. I needed to move. If I wanted to be any form of successful in a career — in my life, as I so naively thought — I needed to be anywhere but where I was.
To Boston. To San Francisco. To New York. To DC. I applied to jobs and grad schools blindly — anything and everything that would give me that start to my career, to the life of an adult that I was so eager to lead…
A life that belonged to someone else, and not to me.
I was so eager to grow up and become the person — the adult — that I’d always wanted to be, the adult that I thought I should be, that I lost sight of everything I valued.
I lost sight of myself.
When I was sixteen, I traveled to France on a high school trip and fell in love with everything belonging to that country — the history, the architecture, the art, the food. As we passed by sunflower fields in the countryside and toured the museums and cathedrals of Paris, I felt that sense of excitement and adventure bubbling forth, like a new love that had just been discovered. I was far away, but I was home.
When I went to London with my best friend a year after we graduated college, I felt exhilarated by all that there was to experience, but I missed my dog, I missed my family, I missed home.
And when I went back to France two years ago, to a quiet writing retreat in a sleepy village in the mountains, I fell in love with the solitude and warmth that a small town has to offer all over again.
I found myself — through travel I rediscovered this love of adventure, a love of the wonder that is everything exciting and new.
And yet, upon my return, I discovered just how important it is for me to have a place to come back to, a place to call home.
A strong community means everything, and getting to know new local friends through social media has helped me to understand just how special this place that I’ve always known truly is.
Living so close to my family and some of my oldest and dearest friends, working in the center of Lancaster City, and going home to the charm of small-town Lititz, it feels like I have the best of every world right in the heart Lancaster County.
Right where my heart belongs.
Right now, right where I belong.