I am unlike most of my friends in my age range. They have longings to travel, to live in different parts of the world, to live miles away from family and friends. These cosmopolitan friends of mine speak several languages and teach their children to do the same. They have not only tried all sorts of ethnic foods, they know each dish by name.
I have the opposite inclination. I long to be rooted somewhere, in one place, with roots so deep that several generations would know my family. Words like, “oh you’re the Sohn daughter” would be said. School teachers would recognize my children from their resemblance of me, as I too was once one of their students. Friends whom I have known for decades would come over for dinner as they have done for decades.
How ironic that I, this kind of person who longs to be rooted, chose to be a minister in my denomination—one of the few denominations that practices an itinerant system. Ministers are sent, not hired. I obviously didn’t think too much about how this part of my profession clashes with my personality. Would it have made a difference if I did? As I often say, I didn’t so much choose my calling as it chose me. I just said, “yes.”
Perhaps this yearning to be rooted derives from my identity as a first generation immigrant, with parents who strived for the American dream and moved from country to country, city to city, in search of that dream. I constantly had to make new friends and adjust to my new environment, all the while being acutely aware of my identity as a perennial foreigner because of my eyes, skin, hair, language, food, culture...
There is no “poor me” in any of this. My constant moving has made me flexible, adaptable. I move between cultural worlds gracefully.
And yet, every time I move, deep feelings of grief well up with me
as well as that ever-persistent hunger to be rooted somewhere, anywhere, one day.