The very last thing I expected to hear at the age of nine while having a casual conversation with my family at the supper table were the words: “We’re moving”.
I had just been telling my parents about a conversation I’d had that day with my friends at school about moving, and how I’d told them that I wouldn’t move until after grade nine. This wasn’t because I’d actually thought I’d ever move, but because grade nine was the highest grade that my school went to and I figured that, if I were to move, that would be a good time because we’d all be moving on to different schools anyways. It was a very convenient date, safe and far away. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t think the same way I did.
Which makes sense, considering we’re different people and all.
That said, it was once I’d finished my tale that my parents gave each other an uncomfortable kind of look and then Mom said those words, the very last ones I’d ever expected to hear from anyone. I burst into tears.
It’s funny how trips can change us. Whether it’s the new experiences, the different atmosphere, or the creation of a new set of habits to deal with all the things hitherto unknown, travelling has this great ability to transform us, whether we want it to or not. For several years after we moved, I thought of my life in three eras: Before Alabama, Alabama, and After Alabama. We lived there for only three years, and yet those three years affected me more than I had ever thought possible for so short an amount of time. I remember the mom of one of my friends telling me near the end of my tenth birthday party (the last one before the move) that I would benefit so much from the experience and, while I didn’t say so, I was incredulous. If she thought it was such a good thing, she could take my place. If moving to another country meant change thrust upon me from outside sources, I didn’t want it; I didn’t want any of it.
But I wasn’t the one making the choices about the course of my life. At least, that’s how it feels to a child on the cusp of adolescence who values obedience just as much as she values safety and security. It felt like I was a tree that was still growing, still excited by all the things it could discover around it, and that I’d been torn up by the roots. And when someone who doesn’t know where all the roots have gone tries to pull them out, they will always tear. They will always leave behind pieces, some small, some large, and they will always bleed. Inanimate things can tear and bleed all they want, but they can’t stop either from happening, just like I couldn’t stop my parents from their decision.
After I’d finished crying, my parents had explained to me and my siblings that Dad had wanted to go to a Bible school in Huntsville, Alabama for a long time. They said that they had talked and prayed about moving for a long time and that they felt that that year, the year I finished grade four, was the right time to go. My siblings and I were old enough to move, they explained, otherwise they would have waited even more until we were.
What I didn’t know at the time was that Mom hadn’t wanted to move at all, but Dad was determined to get his degree from that school and no other. He had decided that, if Mom was dead-set against moving, that he would take the courses online. The problem was that he would have been doing this while also working at his job, which already took up so much of his time that we really only got to see him at supper time. Add online courses onto that, and Mom realized we’d get a dad who was home, but never present. And she’d lose most of her connection with him. It’s because of that that she realized that the only option for her (and the rest of us) was for us to move.
Even if I’d known all of that, though, it would have changed nothing in my mind. I was still helpless to the decisions of my parents. I was still being ignored and pushed aside in favour of the hopes and dreams of others. My thoughts, fears, and desires weren’t as important. Mom and Dad were doing what God wanted, or at least the closest they could figure out to what God wanted. Besides, they were Mom and Dad. I had no say in what they decided for me.
It was this mindset that led to my depression.
(Part 3 coming next week)