A year ago, my husband received a call from an HR chick who had actually called him eight months earlier. It was about an opportunity in Milwaukee–yes, that frozen tundra–that had fallen off the radar. Very quickly, many seemingly perfect things fell into place and blocks dissolved away, which made it feel like it was just shy of a for-sure thing that we were moving North.
I started getting rid of our stuff, selling our things, and passing-on responsibilities (here is one of these stories). Mentally and emotionally, I began breaking away from the place I’ve grown to love over the last nine years.
Now, if you’ve followed the Average Advocate (or know me at all) you realize how big of a deal this is. I did not want to live in Northern Virginia, and I tried for five years to leave before I accepted this fate, learning to appreciate and thrive in it. You know, it was the whole “bloom where you are planted thing.”
But just like that, a switch was turned on inside of me with the likelihood of this new relocation. Suddenly, I had the freedom to explore other options. Other places! New realities! This made me–a lover of adventure and change–come alive. And once again, I was convinced the grass would be greener on the other side.
Then we got the call: no job, no move, no Milkwuakee. Which was a good thing, I guess, because I can’t even spell the name of the place.
Now, I wasn’t going to complain too much that we weren’t moving to Milwaukee particularly, but part of me really had a hard time with this. First of all, I had to try to grasp where God was in all of this. Did it matter to Him? Was He involved in the first place? Should we be all crazy-radical-like and pick-up and move to Milwaukee anyway (even though it was still Milwaukee), like Abraham did when God told Him to move? Did we read the situation wrong? Was there even a right or wrong? How did God want us to experience Him through this?
Over time, I was able to process those questions and see that God was still with us.
But after I got over that hump, one thing remained. Okay, a lot of things remained, like a crappy job situation, many responsibilities in flux, and helping our church community to keep going as it continued to morphing as though it had been either fed sour cream or corned beef (sometimes I’m still not sure which). But, emotionally, the Ice Cream Parlor Metaphor was re-awoken in me, and can be a joy sucker to anyone with wanderlust, which happens to be something most of us advocates are plagued by.
Ice Cream Parlor Metaphor (i.e., Wanderlust)
You’ve never heard of the Ice Cream Parlor Metaphor? Well, don’t be too surprised. I did just invent it after all.
It works like this:
All the regions of the world are like different flavors of ice cream, a decadent buffet that includes many more than just the measly 31 flavors. The truth is that you can really only fully immerse yourself in the unique taste of one flavor at a time, swimming in that distinct homemade batch of creamy goodness. Some people travel around, getting little mouthfuls of different tastes on one of those mini-itsy-bitty pink spoons, but they don’t really become part of the ice cream flavor itself, they just get a quick dip in the tub. At least until they find themselves back “home” from where-hence they came, in Pralines and Cream or somewhere like that.
I’ve been living in the suburbs or DC (Cherry Garcia? Or maybe Mint-and-Chip?) for over ten years now. I know this flavor well. I am part of it; mixed deep within its tub.
But the a most critical principle of the Ice Cream Parlor Metaphor is the characteristic of profound awareness, which it embodies. It is maintaining the acute knowledge of the existence of all these other flavors, while at the same time being required to recognize that the majority of the flavors will never be tasted, experienced, nor will their complexities ever be solved, or additional delight added to them. At least not by you.
(Please note: I used to be a professional ice cream scooper and cultural anthropologist, so this is a very credible theorem.)
It is like telling an engineer they can’t solve the five equations on the white board in front of them, even though they know they can figure them out. Instead, they are only allowed to look at the equation in front of them (that they’ve already solved). Or maybe it is more like telling a foodie that they are only allowed to figure out what herbs were used to cook the mushroom risotto, but not the pan-seared salmon. Or requiring wine sommeliers to drink only the same Red, and forever ignore the 1955 La Mission Haut-Brio and the other rare wines that stand proudly on their table. They can sip their same Merlot infinitely, only eyeing the aged bottles, with never a hope to distinguish the unique characteristics classifying those as so very special.
That is how I feel about living other places. I wished to move to Milwaukee because I wanted to grasp how it worked, moved, and breathed. Not because I really wanted to live there. I would hate the very cold and I would probably go into depression locked-up inside. But according to the way I think, it would be worth it to solve it’s cultural mysteries.
And I feel the same way about the New England, although I am anything but a New Englander. I’d like to live in the South, although I know some of the prevalent views in the Bible Belt would make me crazy, not to mention the humidity. I desperately tried to get my husband to apply to jobs in Europe and the Northwest, because I want to be those cultures, and twine them into my children’s hearts. I’ve given up on living in a developing nation for the time being, but someday I’ll probably be placing my hope in a rocket trajectory towards one of those regions, as well.
This past year as we considered different opportunities, opening my eyes yet again to all the flavors in the ice cream parlor, I mean it in the most exciting way when I say it was a joy killer. It is like the temptation of opening Pandora’s Box.
Here is an everyday example of how it could sneak in and wipe out all my joy: That particular week I was all fine and good, until one day my husband said he was temporarily pausing on the job search. I found myself broken-down bawling, complete with crocodile tears and gasping breaths, feeling trapped (and therefore claustrophobic) in Northern Virginia.
Being wired with wanderlust, it is all too easy to place my happiness and hope in what is not-here. This past year was living the first five years of being in Northern Virginia all over again, with the Ice Cream Parlor open. But this time I was noticeably a bit better at being content in the unknown. I dream of someday living in that duel state of being happy and fully invested where I am, while still being unsure of the future (or in this case, actively looking for new opportunities).
The New Ice Cream Flavor
Yesterday, my husband formally accepted a job in San Diego, California. We will be moving within four to eight weeks back to my homestate, and to one of my favorite cities ever. I am so excited. I think.
A couple months ago, when I was on a big “we should move to Scotland kick” I saw a commercial just for moving to San Diego. Beautiful waves, sun, beaches, parks. Happy children and outdoor delights. Really!? Who makes commercials like that? Why do they even need a commercial for a perfect place like San Diego? It is regions around Milwaukee that need freakin’ commercials! But right away I was like, “Oh no! It is a sign! Dang-it!” And since the possibility of San Diego came up, I’ve been panicking inside.
This is one of my strangest fears when it comes to moving, but it goes back to my Ice Cream Parlor Metaphor. To me, San Diego has always represented The End. It is a running joke with friends, a stake planted in the ground of where I want to grow old and settle.
If I moved to Milwaukee, or someplace not San Diego, it is easier to imagine leaving again, ready for another adventure. So if I move to San Diego now, while I am just thirty, will I ever leave? What if it makes me grow old more rapidly, with no moves or seasons to mark the time? What about all the other places I want to live and experience and give to my children?
I know my struggle isn’t so much about being tied down, and it isn’t so much about the world remaining an an open oyster, pearls just waiting to be found (or Ice Cream Parlor, to jump from tub to tub in). It is really about recognizing my hope can’t be dependent on what is fresh and new.
When we move to San Diego, even if it might mean temporary rest from involvement, it won’t be an escape from my problems. San Diego won’t set me free from my wanderlust and my struggle to live life to the fullest where I am, and in the present. My family will begin our stint there with the same issues, and once I have a community, it will also have its own set of imperfections. I will probably still get depressed, battle with pride, and want to be known, respected, and “special.”
But, it is also a new opportunity to meet new people who will teach me new things. It will force me face the good and bad in me, guiding me to change. It will shake my worldview, it will challenge me to love in ways I do not yet love, and help me experience love in ways I have not experienced. And through it all, God will still be there.
We will not be alone.
Even if I am moving to a region marked for its dream vacations, my hope cannot be placed in it, as my void will not be filled by it. This is probably a healthy, although somewhat tough truth I’ve been having to work through–Moving is not the answer.
So this is our exciting news! Roll out the red carpet, level the hills for a smooth ride, and we will cry as we wave and kiss you goodbye with an ice cream scoop in hand. We are going to be part of a new-to-us flavor labelled San Diego–just another great place to fall in love with that will not make us perfect or perfectly happy. But where we can still have a cone or cup of happy days.
Do you struggle with wanderlust? What about “grass is greener on the other side” syndrome? If so, let this be a reminder you aren’t alone and there is something greater that we need to fill that void.