The Niche You’ll Never Find

My early, early childhood was in the 90s, my adolescence spilling over into the new millenium. Unfortunately, this was a time of Backstreet Boys, Rugrats, and turtlenecks. (The “unfortunately” was a modifier only for the last one). My two elder—and so loving—siblings have since made sure I don’t forget those turtleneck days. I barely remember being stuffed head first into those sensible Lands End articles, gasping for air and pawing at my mother’s hands until I was liberated. Those were consistently the scariest moments of my childhood, so I guess you could say I had it easy. The fact remains, however, that turtlenecks are instruments of torture and instill fear into the hearts of children who never know if they’ll be able to breathe again. Nowadays I have a touch of claustrophobia, and I give full blame to those blasted sweaters.

A sweater, though, is nothing compared to a city crowd. If you’ve ever been swept up in one you know it’s hard enough to walk in a semi straight line, much less make sure your wallet isn’t stolen. The skyscrapers by the river make me imagine that the air is water, and I’m swimming up, up, up up up trying to find space to take in oxygen, just for a moment, but I can’t. The buildings go upward forever, and no matter where I go I’m always in the middle of them. I look at the homes close enough that I could step from roof to roof and think, How does anyone live? I look at the massive downtown structures and think, How does anyone breathe? 

One of the hardest adjustments for me was understanding that I would not have a niche. I’m not talking about a place where I would fit in or excel, but a place where I could be. If you find a favorite coffee shop, it’s likely 100 others’ favorite as well. If you love the ambience of a certain restaurant, don’t go there from 10AM-2PM or 4PM-7PM, because it will be packed.

My friend Sara is from Alaska, but she goes to school in a big city. Her fiancé is having to move to state after state for the marines and his schooling. She just flew overseas to the Middle East and Asia, but right before she left, we got to spend a few days together. Sara beamed with joy from the new ring on her finger, fresh from her last visit with Matt. But something was wrong.

“I’m exhausted,” she said. It wasn’t the “haven’t slept in three days” exhaustion. It wasn’t the “have a paper to write after I get off my six hour shift” exhaustion. It was the I can’t find home exhaustion. No matter where she goes, a piece of her soul is somewhere else, and I can’t think of anything more exhausting than not feeling wholly somewhere. Wholly anywhere. (You feel me, Voldemort?)

I confess, there really is no point to this post other than to tell you that if you feel this way, you are not alone. If you’ve been in one place your whole life and hated it, you’re not alone. The same goes for if you loved it. If you were in a military family and went to 10 different schools, you’re not alone. If you’ve never found that one place–that part of earth that without a doubt is where you are supposed to plant your roots–you’re not alone.

My question, though, is this: If we are all wandering–finding, losing, moving, hoping, discovering, exploring–aren’t we home already? In this, aren’t our hearts relative to what’s around us and what those hearts have found? Not everyone has wanderlust, but aren’t we all wandering?

Before You Go

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” And He said to another, “Follow Me…”

-Luke 9:57-58a


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