Recently, Chelsea’s younger brother left to Costa Rica to work on a sustainable, biodynamic farm. It’s a three month commitment, and who knows what he will choose to do once he through with his internship. I only bring this up because in the week before he left he stayed with us and the weeks prior to that he was staying in his childhood home, the same place Chelsea’s mother left a few weeks before when she moved around the corner from us. I remember thinking how great it was that he spent some time on his own, getting that experience of working and living day-to-day without anyone to answer too.
This led me down the wild track where I started thinking about how each of us forms our identities. I thought about my experiences and then I thought about how my own child will have those same moments. Granted, not the same exact moments, but he/she will have those moments that will hold that same defining significance.
I left my childhood home when I was 19 to go to University of California, San Diego (UCSD). I left and never really returned. My home is still there; my dad still lives there and it will always be “home” and I still visit. But now it is my “childhood home”, distinct and different from my own home that I am building now with Chelsea and Bibbs. Skimming down the lanes between memory and nostalgia, I reflect back to when I first moved away. When I started at UCSD I felt good, independent. I never regretted leaving home and I never really remember thinking I wanted to go back to the life I had in Oxnard. Oxnard is a great place and most of my immediate family is still there, but homesickness never really entered my psyche. Looking back, I wonder why I didn’t have those moments that many new university students have of missing my parents, brother, cousins, etc. And I attribute it to the moments I had before moving to the city where I spent the next ten years of my life.
Growing up I used to read a lot (I still wish I could read half as much as I did when I was younger!). I read fantasy books, young adult novels, poetry, and a few of the classics. I primarily read fantasy, though, and I had a fascination of different worlds, dragons, castles, knights, dwarves, elves, fairies, magi, mages, and so on (mayhap I have told you how I am still writing that fantasy novel that’s been burning inside of me or maybe not). I also had a wonderful high school history teacher and an amazing English teacher who opened my eyes to the possibilities of historical facts and the power of great literature. Well, this obsession with fantasy, history, and literature led me to be fascinated with the Middle Ages and Europe.
One of the first defining moments I remember is when my history teacher (we were his first World History Honor’s class…so we had a special place in his heart) arranged to have a 30-day trip through EF tours from London to Greece the summer after we graduated from high school (July 2000). We still had to pay something but since it was an organized tour the fee we paid included the round-trip plane ticket, breakfasts, dinners, lodgings, and transportation for those 30 days. Needless to say, I jumped on the opportunity and cadged my parents relentlessly until they agreed to let me go. Reflecting back with my adult sensibilities I realize they must have worked really hard to put together the money for me to have this opportunity, and it is still one of the most memorable trips of my life.
I kept a journal those 30 days (stories to come?), and I have not really read it since I wrote the pages down, but I know the experience of trans-Atlantic travel, spending 30 days with 17 of my classmates (including the classmates I was closest too in high school), and this amazing history teacher (who still is on my Facebook feed today), and limited adult supervision (and no parental supervision) prepared me for the shock, or at least assuaged it, of moving away permanently from my childhood home. A rite of passage if you will (that’s for you Sampa per our conversation the other day!). I felt confident moving away, I felt secure. Don’t get me wrong I did not become who I am today because of that trip, but it was just one of those defining moments that helped shape my identity. Maybe I would go so far as to say this trip was the impetus that led to my independent nature, my fascination with history and literature (I ended up majoring in both of those at UCSD), my desire to travel, to study abroad, to go to Peace Corps, all of these moments that followed came from that one 30 day trip, but I also know my own upbringing had something to do with it too.
My parents allowed me a lot of responsibility and independence as I went through high school. They trusted me and helped me experience different things the best way they could, small moments, large moments, all…just…moments. I am sure acting and performing in drama helped me come out of my shell as well, also playing soccer and going to plays and experiencing art. Each piece is part of who I am today; we are not whole when we come out of the womb, but it’s those defining moments that make us.
Coming full circle I am so happy for Chels’ brother to have the experience of moving away and having those defining moments himself. And it makes me wonder (and hope) that 30 years from now I could be possibly reading a similar post from Bibbs about the moments, about the experiences, extolling what he/she experienced as well as the amazingness of his/her parents.