I grew up in a military family. By the time I was 18 I had moved five times. That meant I was completely uprooted and started over five times. New State. New City. New Home. New Neighbors. New School. New Church. New Friends. I experienced rejection and loneliness again and again. I had seasons of having no friends. Not only that, but I had the knowledge that whomever befriended me would eventually have the unfortunate fate of losing their friend the next time my family was relocated.
On top of moving, one of those moves brought on by military cutbacks meant my dad was being forced out of his dream job. Even though I was only six at the time, I knew what a disappointment this was to my parents. My dad was devastated. We were forced to leave somewhere that would be known in our family as: “where we belonged.” “Where we should be.” “Home.”
Years later another military cutback allowed my dad to decide where he wanted to move and immediately he requested to return to “where we belonged.” “Where we should be.” “Home.” Only years had passed and I quickly discovered I didn’t belong as much as I thought I should. I was back in school with many of my old friends, yet they treated me like a total stranger. My friends had moved on in my absence. We attended a new church, because also in our absence, the church we had attended went through a split and now our old friends were at this new church.
My new church youth group was predominantly male. They planned outings like water skiing, dirt biking, paintballing, backpacking, hiking and camping trips. While I joined them on a couple water ski trips, I had never dirt biked or camped. My family was not a camping family. My disinterest in youth group activities, paired with a very legalistic fear-based church, led the youth leaders to treat me like I was not serious about my faith.
Being a military kid, I frequently was asked: “Where are you from?” As a child, I always answered with the place where I felt we belonged. As an adult, I reply with “Everywhere and Nowhere.” The truth is that in retrospect, even the place where my family and I thought we belonged never truly felt like home to me after all.