It had been seven years away for me and four for Cori. I left Virginia within months of graduating, assuming I'd spend a year away and then return to 'normal' life. Instead, I fell in love with the life I carved for myself in New Orleans, finding sweetness in growing up and being independent. As much as I missed Virginia (namely: the change of seasons, my family & friends, and roads without potholes), I was supremely content with my life and sometimes wondered if I'd ever return to Virginia. I loved the culture, the friend-family I had, and didn't contemplate moving even in those painful moments where the weight of teaching in the inner city sometimes seemed too much to bear. Then, three years since I'd bid farewell to the Commonwealth, Cori came into the picture. We met within days of his moving to New Orleans, he asked me out four months later, and then he proposed exactly one year after our first date.
I realized early on in my dating relationship with Cori that if we got married, we'd likely end up back in Virginia... At some point. But as Cori's graduation and our wedding approached and we were faced with the reality of likely leaving New Orleans for a job for Cori, we decided that 'some point' had not arrived quite yet. Instead, we were married in June, and in the blink of an eye we'd moved to Tampa, where we learned about marriage, met Mickey Mouse and his crew, and made some very sweet friendships.
But something about this move was different. We truly enjoyed our time in Tampa, but I couldn't help but feel exhausted by the strain of living so far from so many friends and family. As time progressed, it became obvious: we were ready to return to Virginia. So when Cori decided to move towards his dream of becoming a Physician's Assistant, we pretty much exclusively looked at schools in Virginia.
We prayed, we made plans, we tried to hold them loosely, and we waited. After Cori interviewed with JMU in January, we spent the next few weeks holding our breath for their phone call with news of an acceptance or a rejection. When I found a manila envelope from JMU in the mailbox after work one day, my stomach froze and I could hardly breathe as I called Cori and suggested he get himself home as soon as he could. We danced and shrieked (okay, so maybe I was the only one who shrieked- my husband tends to respond to good news just a little bit more calmly than I do) and celebrated as he opened the envelope and we realized he was accepted. This. Was. Happening.
So it was all these events that lead us to The Longest Day Ever, where we spent 19 hours driving our separate cars and transporting our belongings (including our cat, who survived the long trip in a drug-induced haze) as we returned to Virginia. And for the first time in years, it wasn't a quick weekend trip for a wedding or a week for the holidays or even the month we spent finalizing wedding details. It was for good.
And y’all- it’s been glorious. There will be other opportunities for me to gush about our townhouse (hello, wood beam ceilings!) and my job (which I love in a way I've never loved a job before) and the community we are slowly but surely forming within our church (aletheia for the win!) and how difficult but worthwhile Cori’s first semester was (he spends every spare moment studying but it clearly is paying off because he got STRAIGHT As!). And maybe I will write another post about how much we enjoy Harrisonburg and I could just go on and on and on about how wonderful it has been to be so much closer to friends and family.
Don’t get me wrong… there is a part of my heart that will forever live in New Orleans and Tampa. It’s the most random things- an Instagram picture of an old co-worker taken in her classroom at my school in Florida, a Facebook picture of our neighbors’ growing boys, a cd from the worship team of my church in New Orleans that I used to listen to in my classroom while I prepared for the school day, someone mentioning that they’re taking a trip to NOLA- and I get hit with a wave of homesickness and realize that these places I lived will always, ALWAYS be a part of me, and as hard as it has been to fall in love with a place and then leave it, I will never regret the experiences I’ve had.
But despite it all- or maybe because of it- I could not be happier to be home. Because in all honesty, I might have officially become a Virginian again at the DMV this past August, but my heart knows the truth- I never truly left.