When I spent a semester in Oregon my junior year of college, I found myself for the first time immersed in a community of people entirely new to me. Even during previous times of transition—attending new schools, beginning college—I had a couple of friends who were familiar, with whom I had roots.
A month or so into that Oregon semester, I found myself longing for such rootedness, for relationships with a past, for people who knew details of my life because they’d experienced my life with me, not because they had to ask. This lack of roots was, for me, one of the most difficult parts of the semester.
Since then, I’ve managed to uproot myself far more thoroughly by moving out of state for grad school to a new town where I had no connections save a single Calvin English alum who’d graduated a couple of years ahead of me. I’m beginning my fourth year in Lafayette, and I feel very much at home here. I’ve established roots here.
Even so, the opportunity to reunite with my freshman-year suite last weekend was exciting. We’ve met almost every year, despite the logistical difficulties of being spread across three states and two countries. We’ve shared one another’s joys and burdens—celebrating marriages, listening to tear-laden stories, patting hands (inside joke, there—sorry).
We’ve changed a lot, of course, in those seven years since we first shared a shower, growing from teenaged underclassmen to veritable adults in our mid-twenties. Who knows, we might not even be inclined to choose each other as friends if we met today for the first time. But thanks to the laughter and late nights and long conversations that anchor us, we can spend a weekend together enjoying and nourishing one another, deepening roots that can span years and state lines.
The years after college are, from what I’ve seen, uprooted ones. College is a liminal space, to be sure, but after graduation, defining one’s place can be even harder. Big moves, job struggles and changes, new life stages—often all at once! I am probably a more settled individual among my peers (I mean, four years in the same town immediately post-college?), and even I feel like my twenties are marked by a constant process of unsettling and resettling.
I remember talking about this in Senior Seminar, about how “our generation” lacks a certain geographical rootedness—whether due to education, career, or temperament—and how the temptation for wanderers can be to skim the surface, to avoid putting down roots at all if those roots will just be plucked up in a month or a year or three years.
I can see the temptation in this—I’m terrible with goodbyes. At the same time, I know the longing to know and be known, the longing for roots. So even though I myself will be pulling up roots again in a year’s time, I still look for roots wherever I can find them—be it here in Indiana or at a cozy Michigan lake house with three familiar-yet-foreign women.
Alissa Goudswaard Anderson (’10) lives with her husband Josh in New York City, where she is earning her Master of Divinity at General Theological Seminary. Alissa enjoys private kitchen dance parties, big Midwestern thunderstorms, and perusing other peoples’ bookshelves. For more, find her online at www.episcotheque.wordpress.com or tweet her @episcotheque.