When I was growing up, our school gave us little saplings every year for Arbor Day. Some years we’d take a field trip and plant these baby trees in local parks, and other times they’d send them home, delicate roots wrapped in a wet paper towel for the bus ride home. The first one I got, in kindergarten, we planted in my back yard. But, at about nine inches tall, it was hard to see, and for a year or two my dad kept accidentally mowing over it. At times, we thought it was about to die. Looking slightly haggard and out of place in that space behind our garden, we didn’t think it would make it, thought about transplanting it somewhere else. Then, seemingly overnight, it suddenly turned from a sapling to a small tree, strong and determined despite its still-small stature. It’s as if it finally decided, “Hey, if I can’t move, I may as well just dig my roots down deep and learn how to thrive.” And you know what? By the time I left for college, that little sapling had grown into a tree taller than me.
Recently, I’ve been feeling akin to that little pine. Though I’ve lived in Minnesota nearly my whole life—I was born and raised here aside from a two-year stint when my family lived abroad, I went to college here, and I’ve lived in St. Paul ever since—I never really let my roots grow very deep. I didn’t want to make this my permanent home.
You see, in college, I wanted out—out of the Twin Cities, out of Minnesota, out of the Midwest. I dreamed of New York, as every good journalism major does. I felt that if I stayed in Minnesota after graduating, I’d be settling, that I’d get stuck and never leave if I stayed too long. I wanted opportunities that I didn’t think I could find here. I didn’t want to look back at my life in 20 years, disappointed that I never took a risk and went somewhere new. But four years of private college loans and the difficulty of finding a full-time job in journalism after graduating sent me to my parents’ basement rather than a brownstone in New York.
Circumstances made me stay, but I always promised myself that a move was just around the corner. It’s not that I dislike Minnesota. (Except driving down 494 during rush hour in a snowstorm—that’s not my favorite.) I really do like it here. When the lilacs bloom in the spring, when the summer sun shines on the lakes, when autumn sets the trees on fire or a first snow falls over the quiet streets of St. Paul—these four moments alone are reason enough to love this beautiful state. And yet. It felt too familiar, too mundane, too easy. I felt like I hadn’t chosen to be here, to stay here; I felt like this state had just happened to me. So I never let myself feel too comfortable, tried not to let myself get too attached.
However, I’ve felt something shift this past year. Rather than always looking ahead, searching for that bend in the road that will carry me off to my “real” life, the one I’ve been waiting for and working toward, I made a real life here. I finally let myself connect, invest, dig my roots in deeper and learn how to thrive. I joined a soccer team after wanting to for years, and have found so many new friends and a renewed love for the sport I played while growing up. I joined a small group through my church after going there for four years, finally letting myself become a part of the community there; and I now have fifteen people who I share weekly chats with about philosophy and theology, people with whom I share meals, who share the ups and downs of life with me, who challenge and encourage me. I hung up more pictures on the walls of my apartment, since I feel like I may actually stay a while. I got a full-time, salaried job.
This past winter I was on a vacation in Southern California, a place I’ve considered moving, and though I had a good time, I found myself missing St. Paul—the familiarity of the streets and businesses, the friends who live only a walk down Summit Avenue away, the comfort of having family nearby. While this may not sound crazy to most, it felt like kind of a crazy, unprecedented thought to me. For so long, I’ve viewed Minnesota as a temporary place to live, simply a launching pad to something greater, not a place to land.
After 26 years of living here, I’ve finally let myself love it, let it become home in a deep and significant way—not just as an answer to “Where are you from?” but in a these are my people, this place has shaped who I am, they know my Thai take-out order kind of way. It’s as if I finally decided, “Hey, if I can’t move right now, I may as well just dig my roots down deep and learn how to thrive.” And you know what? I did.
I still don’t think I’ll stay in Minnesota forever—I want to see who I am in different places, to see what life looks like when you’re only a subway ride away from anything, or to feel what it’s like to live with mountains or the ocean outside your window, to find the place that makes me feel most alive. But I’ve decided to stop living as if I may leave at any time—even if I may leave at any time. Because I have a life here, I have a home, I have roots. And whether my time here is long or short, it's worth letting them grow deeper.