Root In

Our apartment at the time was lovely. Walk-in level with a two-sided wrap porch that overlooked undeveloped land. Three bedrooms, two baths, a well-appointed kitchen with separate dining area. All the typical community amenities, centrally located within the county, less than four miles from where we worked, and safe enough that I never worried about coming home late at night from my second shift job.

The day, as my memory recalls it, was sunny and our two walls of windows in the living room plus our new, rich green couch made it a comfortably warm and inviting space. Our kitty was a fluffy orange and white guy who was friendly enough. I had invited a long-time friend over for a visit and I remember sitting on the couch, my legs curled up beneath me, waiting to hear her reaction after I’d showed her proudly around. I was in love, I was in better health than I’d been in for years, I had a nice home and a good job that was at least somewhat related to my college major – I felt like I was ticking off all the boxes young adults are made to feel like they should be checking off as they continue rooting into adulthood.

She looked around quietly. Maybe she was taking in the décor (mostly courtesy of my then-beau-now-husband, who’s far better at interior design than I am). Perhaps she was making comparisons to her current abode, which I hadn’t ever visited. Could be she was thinking about the homes where we’d both grown up, neither of which resembled that apartment much. I’ll never really know because all I remember was what she said next…

“This isn’t you.”

I really don’t remember anything else about that visit. Don’t remember whether we stayed there and talked or went out to eat. Can’t recall if we argued about her pronouncement, though I have to believe I defended myself in one way or another because, especially back then, I wasn’t one to just shut up and move on without at least a small rebuttal. I know I had by then shed the persona of the girl who never wanted to marry, who wanted a child but not a spouse, who plenty of people assumed was a lesbian, and who couldn’t figure out why the hell ANYONE would ever even WANT to get married in the first place!

The refrain was what remained after the day had ended. The refrain that made me question all of it, from the immense trust I finally felt for a man whose bed I was sharing to the confidence I had for having gotten a hard-won promotion based on my proven abilities and despite not having fulfilled the typical educational requirements.

“This isn’t you. This isn’t you. This isn’t you.”

But, as that friendship began to fail, not for the first time, but for the final time, over the following months, I realized that wasn’t it. I had changed, that’s certainly true, but it was more than that. It took me a while to understand: I had changed so that I no longer met her expectations of me.

Friendships are fragile ecosystems. They must, by nature, be flexible enough to support diversity. Diversity of opinion, diversity of belief, diversity of experience, diversity of thought. Most importantly: Diversity of evolution.

There are things that come along that change you instantly. There are things that change you slowly. The one constant is that you will change. Even if you attempt to cleave desperately to ideals that are unsupportive, unhealthy and ultimately damaging, your world will change and change and change until you have no choice but to evolve. That or cease to exist, either figuratively for the ones who once held you dear or literally by stepping off this planet and on to the next adventure in the who-knows-where. I’ve been on both sides of that divide before and I’m sure plenty more opportunities will come along for me to make the choice again.

But I’ve rooted into this over and over. Checked and re-checked and checked again. Rooting in is a dynamic process. Trees continue pushing out their roots over time, seeking stability and nourishment. And roots are fierce: If they come up against a rock, they will either go around it or through it, but they won’t be stopped. Looking back over the more than fifteen years since that visit, I can say absolutely that I was in the right place at the right time in order for my evolution to take its next important steps.

That WAS me. THIS is me. This IS me. This is ME!

Yes, it is.