I have always been a nest-maker, and life with small children has made me even more rooted in place, unwilling to consider any life changes that would mean leaving my house, my neighborhood, or my familiar, comfortable routine.
But the last year has thrown me together with people whose stories are full of romance and adventure. Our friends/neighbors from Iran tell stories of a marriage arranged by a mother-in-law, and a journey from their home country to the U.S.A, where they are now happy and in love, raising their daughters.
My friend in the ceramics studio was interviewed on Libyan TV after her sculpture was featured in a gallery, which resulted in four marriage proposals from strangers. After several emails and a little travel together, she accepted the proposal of a University of Michigan professor from the US. Though she had never been to America, she moved here a year ago, learned to drive, and is pursuing her MFA in Ceramics, with a baby due in April.
These have always been the kinds of stories that make me sigh in admiration. I have always loved to read the diaries of pioneers who left behind homes, communities and families in the East to make their way west in covered wagons. They had no idea what might lie ahead, but they went anyway, trusting that they could make it work, with their loved ones beside them.
My own ancestors had that same sense of adventure and faith in the future. Some left Germany with whatever they could pack in a steamer trunk, suffering long and grueling sea voyages to arrive at Ellis Island, and enter a new country where they owned nothing, knew nobody and didn’t speak the language. The rest came from Ireland, fleeing hard times and looking for a way to start fresh with just the ability to work hard and the heart to not give up.
Immigrants brought an open mindedness, sense of adventure and determination. Passed through generations, it still makes up a lot of what is best in this country. For me, though, it’s the individual stories that keep me interested.
Joseph Campbell said — and I wish I could quote him directly, but this is close — that you must be willing to let go of the life you have, so that you can acheive the life you were meant to have.
To me, this means small daily adjustments: learning to let go of mothering little ones so that I can raise teenagers, or reminding myself to explore new paths and take small risks, leaning away from comfortable habit and into new growth.
For Jenny, it means a leap of faith that has brought her to a new land, a new life, and a lot of unknowns, guided by love for my brother. I am full of admiration, awe and a little envy when I think of her courage. I have no doubt that she will make a wonderful life for herself and add something special to our world: the adventurous ones always do!