Often times in our lives, we are prompted to develop a desire. A dream. A longing that keeps us up late at night, dreaming and plotting. Whether it be figuring out a budget over and over to achieve the means with which to chase this dream or planning out the right time in life to pursue this desire. It is not uncommon for anyone to have dreams and goals that may be considered unrealistic by others around them. Or, at the very least some may say that your dreams and plans are not easily obtainable. They will chastise you for such dreams, and even try their best attempt at directing you back into a state of realism in which you will see the insanity of the dream and think more logically on how absurd it is. Then you can settle back into your little life of balance, and structure, and mediocrity.
For some of us, however, the irrationality of the dream is what drives us. The idea that someone, anyone would dare be so brave to tell us that our dream may never be ours to realize, is a mere fuel to the fire that burns within us. The more that people tend to push us in the opposite direction of our dream, the harder we fight to hold on to them. They are, after all, the only thing that is truly ours. The one thing that we hold on to, that no one else gave us, and therefore, no one can take them away from us.
There was a time when I once believed that my life belonged in my tiny little hometown. That I was destined to grow old and eventually die there, without ever knowing anything of the great big world outside of that town. Little did I know that a walk on a sandy beach would one day change everything. The first time I got out of the car and stepped on to the powder soft sand of Gulfport Mississippi, I was forever changed. I quickly developed a love for the feel of the winding knots about my face, and the smell of the salty air. I had always believed myself to be a “mountain girl” and never considered that I would have a life beyond where the North Georgia mountains fell. The ridgeline of the mountains seemed to draw the proverbial line in the sand, and I never even questioned that I would have any desire or reason to cross that line. Yet, here I was, rapidly becoming fond of the beach life, and the more I was around the quaint little beach towns of the Gulf of Mexico, the more I was determined to have more and more of it.
As time went on, and I later found myself in a broken relationship. Facing the death and subsequent ending of my marriage, I longed for something different. It was not that I did not love my little hometown, or the people who dwelled there. I had family and I had friends. They meant a great deal to me. But, at the end of the day, when the world had grown silent, and it was just me alone with my thoughts, I had come to realize just how alone I really was, even in my own town amongst my family and friends. The demons of my past were all around my town. They were among the people that I knew and would encounter on a generally regular basis. I was close with my children, but my son was true and true devoted to our hometown. My daughter, however, she had begun to come of age, moving into her teenage years, and she found herself also wishing for a fresh start in life, far away from our hometown. We had made the decision that once I finished with school, with my marriage ending, and no better time to make a fresh start, we would pack what we could fit in the car, get rid of what did not fit, and head out west toward Biloxi and Gulfport Mississippi to find us a new place to start over. A clean slate where no one knew our names seemed to be the ideal place for us to start embarking on our new lives.
But, then one day, something happened. Something that would change everything. As I was nearing the end of my degree program at school, and we were making our plans to get away, my son informed me that he and his fiancé were now expecting. My daughter and I concluded that there was no possible way that we could ever leave and miss the birth of my grandchild, and her niece or nephew. It was not even debatable; we would remain in our town and gladly welcome this incredible blessing into our lives. My granddaughter was born in the fall of that year. She was beautiful and an absolute treasure. She gave me a hope and a reason to remain in the place that I had spent so many years trying to get away from. Someone once told me that moving away was no more than running away from my ghosts of the past, and that was not going to solve any of the issues that I had. Perhaps, they were right. But, then again, just perhaps, I had already thought of that. Both my daughter and I had endured a lot of hardship and heartbreak in our hometown. It was never as much about running away from our past as it was just looking for a clean break of those memories that haunted us, and start over in a place where we could have the chance to make new memories without the continual reminders of people and things that had broken us in the past. But, Kenlee had taught us that starting over meant merely to take that first step with an open mind and open heart. We did not have to leave our hometown to get a clean story to write. I was now a grandmother, and she was an aunt. Both roles in which we accepted and leaned into with the reverence and anticipation of a child on Christmas morning.
In so many ways, Kenlee saved me from myself. There were times when I was so broken, I had all but lost my will to function. I lost all hope in ever finding true joy again, let alone, ever knowing love. But one evening, as I sat holding her, it became so apparently clear to me. I had said that I wanted to know what it was like to love again, and to feel the love of another human being felt toward me. For so long, I believed that could only mean to be loved in a romantic sense. I had lost romantic love and had lost all hope of ever feeling passionate toward anyone else again. I thought all the while that I needed to feel the love of a romantic partner to understand and experience true love again. But I could not be farther from the truth. Kenlee showed me. I understood fully what it would feel like to fully love another human being again. Because I loved her so dearly. And, as she grew in herself, with her own little personality and her attachment to others, I felt, for the first time in so long, the unconditional love of another. I had the idea that finding a true love again could only come from a romantic relationship with a man. Yet, true love is perfect and it is unconditional, and when one gets the chance to experience it, no matter the source, it is something that should be held in the highest regard, never taken for granted, and always, above all, appreciated and valued.
Still, somehow, over the years, I always seemed to still have this inner longing for the Gulf of Mexico. Most people thought I was crazy. I have been thought crazy for most of my life, so this was nothing that was going to deter me. I eventually become obsessed with the idea of living in the Gulf of Mexico. As life and circumstances changed over time, my daughter found herself living in Minnesota with her finance, and my son and daughter in law had talked about moving away to Utah. At this point in my life, I had two beautiful granddaughters, and was crushed at the thought of them moving all the way across the country from me. Yet, my life had changed as well. I had, several years earlier, met someone who I had fallen in love with and we eventually got married. We had talked about taking the plunge and moving to the Gulf, once all of the kids had moved away. Just to get out of this area that had haunted me for so much of my life. As luck would have it, my son and daughter in law changed their mind about moving to Utah. They, instead, moved to Southwest Florida. My husband and I decided that it was an obvious choice, I would be close to the girls, and it was, after all, the Gulf of Mexico. There was no hesitation, the plans were set in motion for us to move down to Florida with my son. Within a few months, we were living in an apartment in the same complex as my son, and with the exception of missing my daughter who was still in Minnesota tremendously, my life was coming together in the most magical way.
However, sometimes, even the best laid plans go to waste. This was one of those times. It turned out that my son and daughter in law, could not fall in love with Florida, and within six months they were packing up to return to Georgia. Only this time, they had one more plot twist to add to the equation, they were now expecting my grandson. When they left, I was devastated. I missed them terribly and thought daily about the times I had spent with the girls while they lived there, and suddenly, it was far from enough. I wanted to make the most of still living my dream come true by being in the Gulf of Mexico, finally, after almost ten years of longing for this moment. Somehow, being there without my family proved to be less than all I had dreamed of in my gulf coast life. In addition to missing my family terrible, I had one other major factor that played into my less than dreamy dream life. My husband had also failed to fall in love with Florida. He missed Georgia and our family and friends terribly, and subsequently became depressed over the whole situation. Adding to the already crushing heartbreak I was already feeling, I knew leaving Florida was the right thing to do.
We have been back in Georgia for a short time now. Everyone is happy to have us back. My heart is still feeling a space of emptiness being that my daughter is in Minnesota and my family is not quite complete without her and her fiancé here with us My husband is happy to be here. It is fall and he is loving the cold weather and is heartily anticipating the first snow we will see. While I have to admit, I do enjoy a nice little snow myself, there are some days when I would still trade snowflakes for sandy beaches. I missed my family terribly and am grateful to be back with them. But I have to admit, there are days when I do miss the spaces where the sea meets the shoreline, especially the sunsets. As it turns out, Southwest Florida has some of the most breathtaking sunsets. I likely always will miss living in the Gulf, at least a little bit. After all, it was my dream for such a long time. But, just like Kenlee had taught me five years ago, sometimes our dreams and plans may take a detour, and starting over does not always have to be in a new or foreign place. Quite the contrary. Often, it is right where you began that you realize was the place you were meant to be all along. I love Florida, and the Gulf of Mexico, of that there is no doubt or question. But Georgia is family. Georgia is home.