Growing up, we moved around a lot. We remained in the same region, but we lived in many different houses and apartments due to life circumstances. The number was over 18 by the time I left home at that same age. As a child, I had little control over those circumstances, but somehow I realized I had control over my perspective, even at a young age.
When we got to a new place, I would look for all the positives. One house had stairs; another house had a park within walking distance. One house had a giant walk-in closet that doubled as a fun hideaway; another had a pool. One place was just down the street from my grandparents, and another had green spaces and a beautiful path to walk to get to the mailbox. One house was close to my school and friends; another had great sidewalks to bike and rollerskate. I never knew how long we would be in one place, so I held onto the good of each one. I did my best to soak up everything that made that place unique. Partially it was my nature, and partially it was how I coped amidst the continual change.
In adulthood, I found this way of thinking stayed with me. I noticed it when I traveled. Even inside hotel rooms or places I would stay, my mind fell back into that familiar groove of making the most of what each location had to offer. From the small things like the scents of the lotion in the bathroom to bigger things like the view from the room, I was aware that each place I stayed had a particular set of features that, in their different combinations, created an experience that had something to offer me, like a gift waiting there just waiting to be discovered and opened by someone to enjoy at that moment. This awareness led to one of two things: gratitude or curiosity.
The same happened with the actual places I visited. I remember going to New York City for the first time and discovering all the different pockets of neighborhoods so close together in proximity. Each one had its own flavor depending on the people that lived there, the history of the place, the architecture, the businesses, and the food & smells that flowed into the streets. My friend and I now laugh because I just kept going around and saying, "I love this neighborhood!" and then ten minutes later saying, "No, but I really love this neighborhood," on and on as we made our way through each different part of the city.
It has been ten years since I started the Why I Love Where I Live Instagram account as a personal experiment. Seeds were planted in the soil of my life long before there was anything to show above ground. When I had first come to Tucson for college, I truly felt at home. Over time things changed, and as I began to see more of the world, I began to see what was lacking rather than what was already there. My childlike heart of wonder became atrophied when it wasn't in regular use as it had been in earlier parts of my life. The decisive moment came when I realized this. It was just weeks after I married a native Tucsonan when things started to settle in that not only had I committed to him, but as a result of that commitment, I had also (half-heartedly) committed to a place. In my opinion, that's no way to live! My next step was to find a way to grow that muscle again.
In 2012, I began to open my eyes. I let curiosity get the best of me. I sought to keep my head up and out, expectant that I would find beauty and uniqueness in the world around me. I captured what I saw with my camera as proof, and the photos began to add up. The snowball effect was in play when I realized the amount of new ways I was seeing the city with a dedicated choice to find the good. My sense of wonder began to grow with my new eyes and way to capture what I saw. I wanted to learn more about the history of each place and find depth in a world that had felt 2D before. The experiment took root in me and it was as if the words of a book came to life on a stage. I had welcomed something in me that became a part of who I was and was here to stay. Once you begin to see in 3D you never want to go back to 2D.
Before I started taking pictures and sharing them on the account as a record of my journey, there was a tension in me that I wanted to settle or even get rid of altogether. When I realized my location would not change, I knew what remained that I had control over - my perspective. I had to find that heart of gratitude and spirit of curiosity inside myself once again to settle the tension. In reality, the very surrender to my circumstances would end up leaving me forever changed. Staying put became an unexpected blessing that has been one of the most formative and shaping things in my entire life. Commitment changes us. When we know certain external circumstances in a part of life are fixed, it allows us to surrender to what is. It opens things up to a new kind of freedom that initially feels the opposite of what we would consider "freedom."
The gift is that I can always choose a life-giving perspective no matter where I am and no matter where I go. There is always beauty to celebrate. There is a gift in each moment waiting to be unwrapped and enjoyed by whoever will choose to pause and take delight in it.