The Hattiesburg That Built Me


“If I could just come in, I swear I’ll leave. Won’t take nothin’ but a memory. From the house that built me.”Miranda Lambert 

One of my closest friends once wrote that home changes when you leave it. Not physically, not from anything observed. But it just changes. And I always fought that–because home has always been precious to me, something no one could take away. A constant get-away from even the worst days the world can throw. Until it stopped being that.

It’s intangible and impossible to partially realize the process…until the awful/beautiful realization in its entirety hits you. Running after a home that only lives on in your memories of childhood, yet in reality, is no longer a reality–along with that childhood. Things don’t say the same because we don’t stay the same. Home, at that overwhelming moment, becomes something up for grabs, something we have to reclaim as we begin to become able to separate ourselves from who we were to who we are and are still becoming. And that’s a really (REALLY) difficult and vulnerable place to be in… but it’s also a really (REALLY) defining place to be in as well, and I’m finding that so much of who we are belongs to the home we leave and the new one we choose– whenever we’re ready to do so.

To say that I’m thankful for the past year would be an insult to how much I owe to it. In review, I’ve gotten to finish out my collegiate tennis career with some of the best people this world has ever produced (my team), gotten to learn a bit more about what the business world actually looks like, and I’ve gotten to see REAL ways to help REAL people in REAL communities through the confusing and complex world of economic development. It’s been an incredible ride–but let me just say that in the process of all the good things, it has absolutely sucked in between. A struggle, yes. But the best experiences in my life up to this point have come at the cost of others, and in the midst of all the internal grunge from this past year, I stand on my already stated words: I’m incredibly thankful. Because every pothole in the road has built a freaking sturdy faith in me, one that knows far better than to trust in myself for anything, especially strength. And I realized during this portion of life that I’m ready–for the first time– to claim the rest of my story by ending the chapters behind me.

A friend sent me this timely, encouraging message the other morning that read:

“In Deut. 30, Moses’ leadership of the Israelites is coming to an end Joshua’s is about to begin. Moses gave everyone God’s guidelines for “life and prosperity, death and destruction” (27:1-30:20) and to Joshua he gave a charge that I pray we always remember and lean on in tough times: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of _____, for the Lord goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (31:6)”

There are few times in life that I can ever claim to feel like Moses, but the moment I read this message was one of them. The end of an era is the beginning of another–both for you and those that will go after you. This simple, powerful reminder affirmed that it’s time to shift from a Moses to a Joshua in my life. Indeed, just like Miranda’s words, I got lost in this world, in the abyss of early twenties. Between leaving one home and finding the next. No matter how many times I touch the home I once knew, I won’t feel “it”. I won’t find myself there… because I’m no longer there. The person I’m looking for is not the person I am now. I’m something different, something changed, something ready to claim a newness of self that can’t be held in a memory’s frame. And with that newness of self comes a newness of place to plant “me” in.

An Airstream State of Mind— I might have changed into someone different, but that’s one part of me that has stayed the same. However, the urge and longing to leave has always been purposed with a fantasy of finding myself amidst far-away fields, highways, canyons, streams, etc. all with the light of a gypsy sunset sky setting behind me in the wind (picturesque right?). While my intentions were pure, my maturity was malnourished, only understanding so little of what I claimed so much of. Life has shown me more than I’m aware of– but so far, I’ve caught onto this: Sometimes our treasures, the parts of us we hold dearest, the parts we search so hard for, remained right under our feet at the place our journey began. Not to be dug up and found in their old form–No. But rather, to be resurrected to a new phase of life–to actively ebb and flow in stride with who God is carving us to be, not who He carved us to be. He doesn’t change, but we do.

“Ya can’t go home again”– well, Miranda was a little off on this one. You can. But you won’t find what you’re looking for if you’re trying to find yourself. The only thing that’s in the past is the memory of who you used to be, but that memory is not necessarily the person you are, the person you’ve become. Once we’ve left home for a while, we begin to realize that we have to redefine our concept and definition of home by redefining our concept and definition of self. And in a world that’s full of distractions, lies, self-gratification, etc., it’s easy to lose yourself in the hustle. And it’s even easier to run back to a memory of who you used to be (home). Hear me when I say this– the person you’ll find is not the same one you’ve become. And it’s painful to find it, but beautiful in its coming together all at once. As Oswald Chambers might say, it’s one of those mountain-top moments where we see a glimpse of what God’s doing in the light of his grace and oversight.

My home has been so many things: PCS, the tennis court, youth group, coffee shops, Southern Miss, Eagles Trail, Westgate… The list can go on. But all of these places have ultimately been housed in the great town of Hattiesburg–the same town I’ve stayed in for 23 years. And as I’m getting ready to close a chapter in this town to move to a new place, I’m realizing that I am so much a result of this town’s upbringing. How could I not be? I’ve been here for quite a while. While our same old selves can never go back “home” in the same way, a new and changed self can rise up and reclaim the same home of his past as the new home of his new present and future. Perhaps, that’s exactly what I’m doing–what all of this year has been for. What everything up to this point in my life has precisely prepared me for.

“Show me your fire. Show me your heart. No, I’ll never let you fall apart. Keep. Your. Eyes. Open, my love.”

These lyrics have meant a myriad of different things at different points in my life, but lately I’ve seen NEEDTOBREATHE’s words as a mouthpiece for God’s challenge. To show my fire. To show my heart. And to keep my eyes open to the ways in which to do just that. And though I’m sure I’ll think differently when I wake up in the morning, maybe I’m picking up what He’s puttin down for the first time in a long, long time. Maybe I’ve begun to unravel his purposes enough to act on them after a year of internal unrest and struggle.

“You leave home, ya move on, you do the best ya can. I got lost in this ole world and forgot who I am… Out here it’s like I’m someone else. I thought that maybe I could find myself.” 

Ya know, this isn’t right. I haven’t forgotten anything. I’ve just lost the old parts of me that have shifted into the new. For me, the Airstream has made it full circle to the place from which it departed only to find its greatest journey at its past one’s end. And that, friends, is a special moment to experience. Bigger than a memory, but too sweet to understand past the present.

So, no. Miranda– I won’t take nothin’ but a memory from the chapters closed behind me. But something tells me I’ve got quite a few more to write. The Hattiesburg that’s built me hasn’t done a number on me just yet. Here’s to 23 years built in the burg. And here’s to a whole bunch more construction on the way.

Closer to home,

Alex

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One thought on “The Hattiesburg That Built Me

  1. Reblogged this on All kinds of kinds and commented:
    “While my intentions were pure, my maturity was malnourished, only understanding so little of what I claimed so much of. Life has shown me more than I’m aware of– but so far, I’ve caught onto this: Sometimes our treasures, the parts of us we hold dearest, the parts we search so hard for, remained right under our feet at the place our journey began. Not to be dug up and found in their old form–No. But rather, to be resurrected to a new phase of life–to actively ebb and flow in stride with who God is carving us to be, not who He carved us to be. He doesn’t change, but we do.”
    –I’m confident that Jesus spent more time creating the man that Alex Doleac is and He created one incredible soul.

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