My mom has always called us a family of nomads, moving from place to place at a moment’s notice. We’re so nomadic that we’ve moved 22 times and I haven’t even had my 20th birthday yet.
Hopping in and out of the United States, I’ve lived in France and Arizona and pretty much everything in between. Why have I moved so much? Was it a Bonnie and Clyde situation? Are my parents spies? No, nothing that exciting. When I was a baby, my parents – fresh Baylor graduates – moved wherever there was work. Following the money is how we ended up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, because why else would anyone go there? Then, after 9/11 my father enlisted in the Air Force and we moved to Mississippi, then Arizona, then Germany.
All the important parts of my childhood were spent in Arizona watching the prairie dogs pop up during breakfast and having nightmares about the coyotes walking through the backyard. While other eight-year-old American girls were playing with Barbie dolls and braiding each other’s hair, I was running through German forests with my little brother chasing mice and exploring creeks. The beginning of my preteen years were spent climbing mountains in the south of France and visiting markets with my family for fresh eggs and herbs.
Once my father was done serving his time, we moved to France where we were going to stay. Until my grandfather in Texas had a stroke. We moved back to Texas to be with him while he recovered. Back in our home state, we hopped from city to city until we landed in Austin, where we’ve been since 2011.
Moving this much in all these totally different environments taught me so much. I learned how to adapt quickly at such a young age. When you moved as much as we did, you learn how to not get attached to material possessions and how family and friends are what makes life meaningful.
I also learned lessons such as teamwork and staying calm under pressure. When you’re in a foreign city trying to get to where you’re going and struggling to understand the language, it can be stressful. As kids, we got used to sitting and waiting calmly, bringing books and creating games for the long train rides. A lot of times it was just my brother and I because making friends who don’t automatically understand your language was hard.
I remember being nine-years-old catching the train with my seven-year-old brother to go meet my mom at the market and help her with the produce. Living in Arizona, where my dad was first stationed, I learned how to be courageous and how to accept people from all walks of life. Living on an Air Force base with kids whose fathers and mothers were deployed, you couldn’t be a punk.
My fondest nomadic memory is Thanksgiving of 2008 in Avignon, France. Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in France (duh) but that didn’t stop us . The price for a turkey at the local butcher is 100+ euros! So, my dad bought turkey parts – legs, thighs, breasts and wings – and placed them all on a single tray. My godmother made bread and cranberry sauce from scratch. We ate like kings! Our mix-matched French Thanksgiving was one for the books.
So, whether you’re moving down the street or across the globe, remember three things:
- Family (not always blood) is the most important thing in this world.
- Relax and go with the flow. Life is serious but it’s also yours to make.
- Be courageous and accepting of everyone.