Uprooting my Life
My first memory of uprooting my life was when I was three years old. I have this vivid memory of my mom staring off into the distance telling me we were going to Denmark. My mom and dad had recently divorced and my mom was feeling called to go back to Denmark, back to her homeland, where she had a family to help her raise three young kids. I don't remember the exact words or whether she was expecting to return. According to her, she had a return ticket, because she wanted to stay in the U.S. more than anything. I remember it being sunset and I remember her being sad. I remember feeling the significance of it.
We uprooted our lives and moved to Denmark. This was my first experience of it, but not the first time in my life this had happened. My parents had been missionaries in Chile, where I was born. Having two children, they felt they couldn't stay and moved to Tacoma, not far from where I live now. I know from their tales it was a turbulent experience for them. I know I ended up with an American passport, not a Chilean one, which at that time in Chile's political climate could not have been easy. I was six months old.
My childhood memories started in Skanderborg in Denmark, living with my grandparents while my mother looked for a place to live. We were fortunate that my dad overpaid his child support and alimony, he wanted to support us so my mom could stay home and raise us. Only as an adult do I understand how unique their understanding was. I remember not being able to communicate with my grandparents because I hadn't learned Danish yet. My first Danish word was "saftevand" which is a kind of juice. It was the best way for us to tell them if we were thirsty. Little by little the words snuck in. By the time we found a place of our own we were fluent in both languages. By the time we moved again, I was six years old answering my mom's English questions in Danish.
The next chapter of my life was a longer one. I think my mom was tired of moving around. Her entire life had been moving from place to place as my grandpa built the paved roads all around Denmark. I know she swore she didn't want to do that to her kids.
Isn't it funny how parents often try to spare their kids something that they found terrible, not knowing that their own kid would have loved it? Far be it for me to give parenting advice, but in my experience, by trying to avoid one type of trauma, we usually create another.
So Haslev was my new home for the next 11 years. Many things about Haslev were great. It's in an incredibly beautiful part of the country. With a bike, I had the freedom to go and do anything. The train ride to Copenhagen was only about 1 hour, which came in handy as a young teen wanting to spread her wings. I made friends, had crushes, dreamed about what my life would be like. I also had long stretches of not having any friends close by, feeling trapped, and feeling like my life would never start. During this time my mom would sometimes air the thought of moving to another town. Every time she did my heart would leap with excitement. But we always stayed put. The closest we ever came was when I was 16 and we visited Hillerød about 100 km north from where we were. I was exhilarated, even though I knew I wouldn't be there long. I was already planning to move out and start my own life. Once again, we stayed put.
At 17 I moved to Nykøbing Mors, to be with my then-boyfriend. Incidentally, it is believed that this town was the one used as the backdrop for "A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks", the book that created the Law Of Jante. It was the longest six months of my life.
Uprooting again I finally moved to Copenhagen. This was a city I had revered for so long I couldn't believe I was finally there. I could still go anywhere with a bike and the narrow winding streets were heaven to bike along. I went to art school. I joined my first band for a stint. I felt like my life had finally started.
In 1999 I moved to Barcelona for two years, subletting my apartment to a friend. I explain more details of my Barcelona experience in my blog post: India and Other Detours.
When I got back I had a hard time getting back to that feeling I had when I left. Instead of feeling like my life had just started, I was floundering, aimless, didn't know what to do or what I wanted. I can't even keep track of my uprooting after this. Perhaps I just never rooted. All I know is by the time I was 30 I counted that I had moved 33 times in my life. I call it my Copenhagen nomad life. I became more and more unhappy. I would move to see if that helped. I had endless stretches of three to six-month leases, moving again and again, partially due to Copenhagen's housing crisis, partially due to my own restlessness. By the time I finally settled, I bought at the top of the market before the crash in 2008 and felt trapped in an abusive relationship and a duplex I couldn't afford. The year and a half I lived here were the longest I had lived anywhere for over a decade. Like most people I had accumulated things, memories, a CD collection, my old teddy bears from when I was a kid, you name it. A flood in the garage of the house ruined everything. Including most of my art from Barcelona. By the time I up and left this horrible situation, I only took a few bags of clothing with me. I chose to leave everything else behind, it was a sacrifice I needed to make in order to sever ties from this abusive and manipulative person.
Once again, I was uprooted, but this time it felt freeing. I started noticing that I had choices, I could do things, I could be things. Don't get me wrong, I was a wreck. I lost my job due to depression, I couldn't function. I stayed on people's couches before I finally found a room. I had to make myself a new life from the ground up. And with this, in 2010, I went to India. I tell more about India in another blog post.
Upon my return from India, I felt like a whole new person. Depression was gone. And I'm happy to report it never returned. I felt clear, motivated, in tune. I felt everything deeply. Including the need to uproot my life once more. At this point, I remembered how my mom explained moving again and again, as something that would make her very unhappy. I realized that this was not true for me. Yes, I had been unhappy through all those years of living as a Copenhagen nomad, but I was also unhappy living all those years in one place, in Haslev. It wasn't the moving or the staying that hurt me. Stagnation did. I need to grow, to soar, to feel free.
So I got rid of or stored everything I owned (which wasn't much) and moved to the U.S. This time with a suitcase and a dream. I finally had that feeling again of my life starting. The one I felt back in Copenhagen years ago.
I have moved a few times during my 10-year stint in the Pacific Northwest. I have seen a bunch of this beautiful country and there are still so many things I want to see. But I have never felt uprooted in quite the same way. I think because I finally realized that stagnation comes in many forms and it has nothing to do with where you are physically. It's all mental and emotional. As long as I keep growing as a person, it doesn't matter where I live... but I sure had to move many times to finally realize that!
In the end, my heart lives in my music, and that I can do from anywhere. So whether we stay put in the house we live in now or we sell everything and buy a motorhome, it really doesn't matter. I am still soaring and growing. I am still free.
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