'The world tried to break me, I found a road to take me, home. Ain't nothing but a blue sky now'. - Home, Gwyneth Paltrow
I wrote a lot in 2010 about tough times, trials, and the seasons of life we think will never end. For last year, they were mostly on my mind because of people in my life that I care deeply about who were struggling. 2010, aside from my stomach issues, was a great year for me. It had a few ups and downs but mostly it was a year I wouldn't mind doing again and again.
When I think about the two and a half years I've been back in Tampa its with thanksgiving. These have certainly been the best years of my life. For this time in life I can't imagine anywhere I'd rather be or any place I could be happier. When I was away, in Indiana, I longed to be back here in the sunshine and with the people and the church that feel the most like home.
When I watch as people's faces light up when they talk about college I get a pang of regret. For many of friends college was an incredible time in their lives they look back on with fond memories and big grins. They love their schools and they take pride in being an alumni. There's a part of me that wishes I felt that way too. During these types of conversations I always feel a bit like and outsider, looking in.
For me, college was a means to an end. If I became rich and famous, I wouldn't give any back to Purdue. The way I see it, I gave them plenty of money and 4 years of my life I can't have back, that's payment enough. My 4 years there were my least favorite years of my life and if I could have graduated the day I got there, I would have done it. I hated college. My only motivation to stay and finish school was so that I could get a job and get out of the midwest forever. That's the honest truth.
I know that sounds completely out of character for me. It is, really. I'm usually someone who can have a good time anywhere. I love life and I'm passionate about every day of it. But when I was there, that love for life I have now was sucked out of me. I didn't feel like myself and excitement was far from how I felt about my life. I think that's why I shutter a bit when I look back, I never remember another time in my life where I felt that hopeless.
Now, years later, I'm grateful that my time there enabled me to do just what I wanted. I graduated college with a job offer and I moved to Tampa less than 24 hours later. I left behind the hardest season in my life to date and by far the most depressing and when I say left it behind I really mean it. I left and I never gave it so much as a backwards glance. I've never returned to the Purdue campus since.
If your thinking to yourself how sad that is, don't worry - it gets better. As with a great many things, when you look back on them later you see the good that came of them. I'm thankful for friendships I made in college that I still have today, and even the ones that didn't last but taught me something along the way. I'm thankful that my education has carried me to where I want to be, career wise, and given me a leg up in life. I'm thankful for the hard, dark, depressing times I had there because they make this season in life seem that much brighter. I'm thankful that my lack of love for college motivated me to get what I needed out of the experience.
So you probably won't catch me at the homecoming game, sporting my alumni gear and cheering on the boilermakers. But that doesn't mean that I don't look back on that season in life and see that it was one more time that brought me to where I am today and more importantly, to who I am today. For everything there is a season.
There's at least a part of me that believes I'll be called somewhere other than Tampa again someday, for a season or forever I'm not sure. When I think about that I don't feel fear the way I use too. For years I thought Tampa was the only place I could ever be happy. Now I realize that happiness is more of a lifestyle choice than a location. I admit that I hope my path never takes me back to the midwest for more than a week or two, but I believe with all my heart that I have changed enough that I could handle it better this time around.
What I am more certain than ever is that Tampa will always be the place I call home. It will always be the place I come back too. It will always be on some level, where I belong. After 25 years of being an itinerant, it feels good to finally have a place to call home.
I leave you with the imortal words of Puff Daddy....
'I'm back where I belong, I've never felt so strong' - P. Diddy