Emily Linz, Contributing Writer
“Sea-rover I shall always be, ten thousand stars for company. Through the islands, low-and-high lands, way o’er to Bengal. Come follow me, wayfarers all.”
This haunting sea shanty from the television show The Wind in the Willows summarizes my vagabond existence. I was born in the “Sunshine State,” Florida, and moved to my mother’s native country of North Carolina when I was four. At the tender age of eight, I was uprooted from the my home in the Shenandoah Valley complete with a backyard view of the Appalachian Mountains, and moved back to humid and swampy Florida.
In my preteen years, I moved to a different state every year. After living in frigid Minnesota, where I was introduced to the joy of flannel sheets (although I’m told we experienced a mild winter that year); a dusty, tired, steel-mill town on the Ohio River; and the luscious corn and wheat fields of Illinois, we settled down in the plains of Central Texas in 2005. During those transitional years, my father would say ominously but with a glint in his eye, “There’s always another school, Emily.” I would, of course, groan at my father’s sarcasm and yearn for a place to call home.
While some may find this “disturbingly rootless” existence repugnant, this way of life embodies the Christian virtue of detachment. With the blessing of hindsight, I realize that my time spent in different parts of the United States liberated me; I grew less attached to the worldly things of my childhood, such as my dolls, stuffed animals and movies. When we were moving around the country, we had to store a lot of our material goods in my grandmother’s basement in North Carolina, so I grew less dependent on material goods to entertain me.
Without detachment, material goods become idols. We long for a place to call home, a place where we know the grocer, attend the same church our grandparents did, and grow up with the same people. However, all things come to pass, and it is dangerous to idealize a place to the point where that place becomes as Heaven on earth. In his spiritual masterpiece Dark Night of the Soul, Saint John of the Cross likens the way to Heaven to a ladder, and suggests the way to reach Heaven is through gradual detachment from the world.
Moreover, in the Anglo-Saxon poem “The Seafarer,” the poet likens life to a sea journey; the journey is arduous, but the seafarer’s detachment from worldly goods strengthens his relationship with God: “So it is that the joys / of the Lord inspire me more than this dead life, / ephemeral on earth.”
Ultimately, my time wandering around the country strengthened the bonds I have with my family, because they were the only people I knew in those new states, gave me a good sense of judgment to discern who my true friends were, and made manifest to me my true self – undefined by any particular place.