When we left for college in 2003, my friend Liz K. gave my two girlfriends and I all picture books that reminded her of each of us. Mine was The Runaway Bunny.
It’s a sweet story about a little bunny who wants to run away and every way he wants to run his mother has a way to find him. He becomes a boat to sail away and she becomes the wind that blows his sails, and so on.
“To Courtney,” Liz wrote on the inside, “because no matter how far away you go, we’ll always find a way to find you.”
In the coming months, I moved halfway across the country for college from a farming town in Massachusetts to the City of Evanston, just north of Chicago. I didn’t quite know at the time what this would mean for my life back home but her words comforted me. They honored who I was and loved me for it.
Eight years later, I had forgotten about her book until I was packing up my Chicago apartment in July, headed, in a great sense of symmetry, back East. It made me smile. It reminded me that this wandering soul I have has been with me for a long, long time. It showed me, confirmed for me, that it was time to set her free again.
I have been back East now since August and, while my parents have sold the house in my town, Liz now lives just up the hill from where I was born. It was her birthday party the second night I came back and it felt so good to see her, old friends, and sit out around a fire with crickets chirping and a waning moon rising.
There is something about being around the people who grew up with you, who in many ways built the person you are now, that feels sacred. I can’t really explain it other than it is home.
I am also just completely inspired and amazed by them.
Liz lived in D.C. for three years after college doing research and, while she enjoyed it, discovered that her real heart and fascination lies with animals. So she took the leap and moved back to take courses to one day become a veterinarian. It hasn’t been easy for her but, when you see her light up upon discovering a new factoid about crustacean mating habits, you gotta believe she’s onto something.
My friend Alex F., and his wife Molly (who I could’ve sworn was in high school with us!), tried out big city living too in Boston but realized they wanted out. So they also took a leap and set up their shingle on healthy, locally grown and produced, frozen yogurt. It was — is — a hit, they now have two locations, and are very happy busy bees.
There is more than one way to take a leap and sometimes, if you’re very lucky, you get to take it with someone. This September my friend Alli will celebrate her one-year anniversary with Sam. Next August, my friend Kata will marry David. I am in awe of the guts and love it takes to build a life with someone. (And am so excited that their choices are men who bring out their absolute, shining selves.)
Thanks to all my friends for showing me how to go for it! I’ll be leaving for the West soon, and then on to South America, but this little bunny was very glad to have come home.