Puzzle Pieces

When I turned 18 and immediately moved out of state, nobody warned me that it would be the last time I’d see my heart all in one piece. My lil’ heart had been through its share of struggle already for sure, but it had always been grounded in one place.

I don’t have nomadic instincts. I would love to travel and see more of the world, but I like coming home to the same place. I was a lucky baby, brought home to a storybook-level of charming log cabin. My parents didn’t leave that house until the year I graduated college, and I think it’s safe to say I’ll never forgive them for letting it go. I’ve only made two major moves in my own life–to Utah for college, and to Oregon for life after college.

I don’t know how people stand moving all the time, when I feel like I leave so much of myself behind every time. Little pieces of my heart belong to different people and places, and once I’ve given those pieces away, I can’t have them back.

I love living in Portland. It’s the most perfect place for me. I love Portland people, values, and attitudes. I love the food. I love the public transportation system. I love that despite Portland being much more White than any city has business being, I live in diverse Beaverton. I always tell people that whether you want city, country, mountains, or ocean, it’s all right here, easily accessible.

Except…. It all takes a little bit of work to get to. When I open my front door, all I see is indistinct suburbia. The mountains in the distance are gorgeous! But in Utah, they were right there, taking my breath away every time I stepped outside. BYU kids would take morning hikes up to the Y before class.

The coast is gorgeous, and I love spending a day on the ocean’s edge. But in Seattle/Everett/Mukilteo, the Puget Sound was right there. You don’t have to dedicate a day; you can pop over to breathe that saltwater air on your lunch break. (Even teachers get three or four days a year with a proper lunch hour.)

I need especially the ocean, but all of these places to feel complete.

More importantly, my heart is divvied out between people all over the place. I’ve never been good at making friends. I don’t know how to meet people. I don’t know how to transition from small talk, which I hate, to real conversation, which I thrive on. I don’t know how one becomes a member of a Scooby gang, a Central Perk crew, or a hashtaggable squad.

But the friends I have are golden, precious treasures. I’ve managed to collect some of the best that humanity has to offer…. Except they have the nerve to not geographically cluster around me! Spread out all over the place, no matter where I am, I’m desperately missing most of my people and the pieces of my heart they carry.

I didn’t appreciate my Washington people when I had them. For various reasons, I spent too much time feeling lonely even when I was surrounded by incredible people. Thank goodness those doors didn’t slam shut behind me when I went away to college. Social media became a thing just in time for me to stay connected with communities I probably wouldn’t have otherwise, and in some cases become better friends than we were before. There are the few Washington friends that I still manage to spend time with at least once a year, and every time, I leave wishing that it could be weekly… or daily! Remember being kids, and it was the norm to see your friends daily?

My church community in my home ward was also unbeatable. It was a whackadoo group, but it was my whackadoo group. I’ve never met a group of people that took better care of each other. I naively assumed I would have that anywhere I went in life, since people love to say “the church is the same wherever you go.” But that ward was unique. I’ve been in other good wards, but I’ll always miss that one.

College life and its transitory nature were hard on me and my need for roots, routine, and predictability. It seemed like whenever I finally started warming up to people, the semester would end, everyone would shuffle, and I’d never see those people again. But I managed to find people who walked away with pieces of my heart. Leaving those communities was especially tough, because I knew there would be no going back. BYU students come from everywhere. We’d be spreading back out to the various corners of the world that we’d come from, or heading onward to new ones, and nothing would ever pull us all back to the same place at the same time again.

Then I moved to Oregon, ready to put down my roots in this corner of the lovely Northway forest. And I have. But it seems like the trees around me keep uprooting! As a 20-something, I naturally pursued friendships with other young singles, but young singles don’t seem to stay in one place very long. I made some great friends, but hunts for marriage and careers kept people moving. The unstable economy definitely hasn’t helped. Everybody is priced out of where they live.

I work in a middle school, and where I grew up, teachers stayed in the same positions FOREVER. My high school teachers are either retired, or still in the same classrooms. (Literally, the same rooms. Yearly room upheavals aren’t a universal truth!) According to Facebook, my middle school teachers still hang out with each other. But my own school district seems to be locked into this never-ending cycle of hire, fire, and reshuffle. I’ve always been so charmed and inspired by the teachers who taught together at Whitford for over 30 years. My generation won’t get that. There’s one person left who was hired at the same time I was, and while I love the idea of working together forever, I don’t actually expect it to last another 20 years. Instead, I keep watching people leave, whether it’s a full exit, or just to another corner of Portlandia.

Let’s not forget the giant chunks of my heart that live in the hands of my niece and nephew. Silly children, with the audacity to live with their parents in Omaha! So far away. Visits and Skype are good, but will never be good enough.

And then there are the hundreds of kids who’ve spent time in my classroom, becoming “my kids” for up to three years, and then they just leave. Again, the nerve and audacity! I don’t think they realize that they take a piece of my heart with them when they go off on their paths of growing up. But they do, and I feel their pains and joys no matter hold old they get.

It would be terrible to live a life where there weren’t loved ones to miss. Or if there were a limit on how many pieces I could divide my heart into.

But when I imagine what Heaven must be like, I imagine all those jigsaw pieces coming back together. All the people and places that I love, easy to reach out and touch any time that I want. My heart finally feeling whole and complete. Always room to grow, but never lacking. That’s the Heaven that I’m hoping for.

2 thoughts on “Puzzle Pieces”

  1. Oh Kristine, your writing is so addicting…I’m supposed to be doing something else, but here I am reading…you. You have a huge gift for expressing the heart of matters in life. Thank you for your courage to share yourself, it builds all of us, your readers. I need to make you a cape…you’re a true superhero!

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