After seven years of being married, Kendahl and I still have not lived in the same place for more than two years in a row.
During the first two-year stretch, a buddy of mine gave me some really good advice: “Even if you know you’re moving, invest like you’ll be living here for ten years.” It was practical, compelling advice. What he meant was: continue to pursue relationships and don’t give up on people, even if you’ll only be there a short while.
For our entire marriage, it really has been a short while.
It was two years in Grand Rapids, comfortable yet challenging years as we grew into our marriage with new and old friends. It was in these years we learned that your twenties can be marked by loneliness, even when you’re married, even when you’re in a familiar city. We learned that community is no longer guaranteed in the post-college world.
We then spent two years in Budapest, Hungary, teaching English in an elementary school. We originally committed to being there for one year, but loved our school and found amazing community that drew us in for an additional year. People came out of the woodwork at our school when they found out we were staying an extra year. “I speak English,” they would say with a smile. Would have been nice to know six months ago, we’d think to ourselves.
The third two-year stint was spent back in Michigan, where we both pursued advanced degrees at the same time. NOTE: We would not recommend this strategy. I commuted to Michigan State two times per week and Kendahl studied to become a counselor. It was a time with little money and scarce free time. In the middle of this, we moved to St. Louis for a summer internship. I can still clearly recall Google Mapping everywhere, the discomfort of not really knowing where I was. On my commute to work there was a faded “left turn” sign on the road that looked more like a giant crack, and I never knew if it was supposed to be there, never knew if I was in the correct lane.
It’s probably quite clear by now what all three of these experiences had in common: we always knew they were short-term. As I write this it is November 8; by November 8 of each second year, we knew our bags would be packed before too long and the road would take us elsewhere.
Earlier this fall, Kendahl sent in an application to become a licensed counselor in Illinois. This would allow her to make the thirty-minute commute across the Mississippi and pursue her dream. It would also, of course, provide a clear path for us to continue living in St. Louis beyond the two-year window. As we look to next year, it’s likely we’ll be in the same place during the third year for the very first time.
Being in a new place brings all kinds of vulnerability. It’s inviting people over for dinner who are already connected to community. It’s showing up to an event where you don’t know anyone and putting on a smile. It’s organizing a birthday party for yourself and hoping people will come.
We joined a church last year, a week before its seventh anniversary. What if we were there for its thirtieth? We joined the YMCA this month. What if we become embedded in this community for decades? The daily and weekly activities could become the beginning of a long road, the same road, full of Schnuck’s grocery shopping and Ted Drewes frozen custard and baristas who know our names. What if we chose to invest like we’ll be here for ten years or more, and that investment became a reality? The road that stretches beyond the second year, I hope, is full of friendships that become real, community that shares pain and joy, laughter and sorrow. I hope it’s full of opportunity and risk. Take me on this road, and let the cracks and road signs become familiar. What a daunting and exciting endeavor.
Matt Cambridge (’12) is a new dad to Chloe, husband to the beautiful Kendahl, and a human resources professional at Boeing. He lives in St. Louis and enjoys eating Hershey’s kisses, riding roller coasters, and watching the latest stand-up specials on Netflix. You can read more of his work at laughcrythink.com.