Although not exactly supported by any research that I’m aware of, generally speaking, I’ve found that once I’ve lived somewhere for two years it starts to feel like home. How do I know what that is exactly? Well, for me anyway, I usually notice the feeling upon returning from a trip. It doesn’t have to be a long trip, a weekend away will do, but as I drive back into town there is this feeling of comfort that sort of subconsciously washes over me and ah…..it feels good to be home.
After two years in Mansfield, I still hadn’t had that feeling. At the time I believed that indicated that I would never feel at home here, and that was a very discouraging thought because the odds were pretty good that I’d be here for at least twelve more years. Most days that felt like a prison sentence. Aside from my husband I hadn’t yet found “my people,” and I missed not only my friends but basic necessities like Trader Joes and a good yarn store. To add insult to injury I now had a newborn and felt even more isolated.
By some small miracle, I finally managed to get a job in my field and suddenly I had a tiny something to hang my hopes on. That is until that job dissolved into thin air and I found myself at home with a toddler drowning in hopelessness. The only way to have the things in my life that I most wanted was for me to be in a bigger city, but it was impossible for my family to remain intact any place but Mansfield. I had to let go of one thing or another, either the life I’d always imagined or my family.
Probably more out of survival than strength, I finally came to realize that I had to reimagine my life. That meant I needed a new career, friends, and I probably should learn to like Mansfield while I was at it. I finally made a choice to make the best of things. I stopped trying to piece together crazy schemes to find a way to move and accepted that is would be home, so I’d have to change my attitude about it.
Turns out I’m not the only person to make a conscious decision to learn to love where I was living. Melody Warnick in her book This is Where You Belong tasked herself with a whole host of what she calls “Love where you live experiments.” I can’t say I was as playful or purposeful as her, but as I read her book I was shocked at just how much of the research, resources and even her personal choices was similar to the less structured path that I followed to find a heart for Mansfield, Ohio.
I poured myself into our Be Focal Buy Local group, volunteered at charities, joined a book club and writers group, and started going to every random community event that I heard about. I ended up freelancing for a local publication, which helped me dig into the community in very granular and meaningful ways, and eventually, I started not one, but three ventures.
I honestly can’t say that the house we live in has ever grown to feel like home, that is a story for another day, but every morning as I drive into Downtown Mansfield I get that ah…it feels good to be home feeling.