Growing up, I was never one to get homesick. Other kids would go away to camp and talk about how much they missed their families, or they would go on a church trip and call home every night. I, in contrast, relished the new opportunities and the time away. It was the same when I first moved away from my hometown of Louisville, KY: at 18, I was eager to go on my college adventure in Birmingham, AL. And when I spent a semester and a summer abroad in two different countries while in college, I felt very little homesickness.
However, since then, every move has been fraught with emotion. When I left Birmingham and moved to Boston three years ago, one of my friends told me I would get used to leaving; it would become easier. While I believe my friend when he says that has been his experience, that has not been mine. The older I get and the more I leave, the more sentimental I get. The more I get attached to “my people.” “My people” is an ever-expanding group, but I still grow ever-more in love with them. With each leaving “my people” become more and more scattered.
I spent this summer at home with my parents. I slept in my childhood bedroom that is still decorated with green and purple butterflies, I hung out with childhood friends, I explored the city, and I spent a lot of time with my family. I have a reputation among family friends of always being everywhere but Louisville and of only staying in Louisville for a week at the most, but this time I stayed for three months (albeit with travel breaks in between). In preparation for leaving for Mexico City, I wanted to return.
Recently, returning home has taken on greater significance for me than just family bonding and nostalgic foods. I return because as a theologian, I realize the significance of my past, of my family, and of my ancestors for who I am, what I believe, and how I live. I return because as a migrant, living elsewhere and engaging intimately with other cultures makes me want to learn more about who I am and where I come from. I return because as an activist, I feel hyper-responsible to and for the city where I grew up: for learning from, awakening, encouraging, and accompanying my Louisville people.
After returning this time, leaving was even harder than it has ever been. It was hard for many reasons: I appreciate family more now as an adult, I was going to a different country, my job restricts how much I can go home, and I’m emotionally tired from moving so many times. On a philosophical level, I had a hard time leaving because I felt called both to return and to leave at the same time. Simultaneous returning and leaving may sound strange, but I think it is a very human experience.
Three months ago, I embarked on a very human journey: one of love, separation, migration, adaptation, identity reformation, and expansion of “my people.” Now I am here in Mexico City living in the very human tension of caring about my city and my country while knowing Mexico, too, is home.
As I leave, return, leave, and return, may I always remember where I have been and may I always love people well in the places that I go.
Methodist Church of Mexico (Iglesia Metodista de México)
GMF International, Class of 2016-2018