Home is where the heart is.

The recent tragedy Oklahoma has gotten me thinking about home, and what the word “home” really means. When the tornadoes hit Oklahoma this week, I felt like I had been punched. And when the people in those towns started to stand up, dust off, and rebuild, I felt proud, like I knew them, was one of them. Growing up in South Florida, I’ve been through my share of hurricanes – some devastating, like Hurricane Andrew, and some that weren’t so bad when all was said and done. I realized that the way I felt back home when those things happened was the same way I feel now. Why is that? I don’t live anywhere near Oklahoma.I think it’s because I leave a little piece of myself behind almost everywhere I go. I feel irrevocably connected to the places I have been and have loved, even if only for a moment. I’ve never even been to Oklahoma City, but I’ve been to Oklahoma twice now as an adult, and I adore it. I have many friends there, and it’s a place I feel comfortable and safe. When I saw many of them changing their profile pictures to the image below, I had to fight the urge to do it myself.

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Oklahoma isn’t technically home to me. It’s not even close. How can I feel so drawn and committed and connected to a place I’ve only visited twice as an adult and driven through a bunch of times as a kid? I think about the races I have done and the places I have seen, and I realize it is possible to fall in love with a place, with the people and the experience, in a matter of moments. It is possible to have many homes. I think home is where your memories live, and I have so many memories from all over the country now. I have taken memories from places across the United States and left behind my footprints. Even the races that I wasn’t completely enraptured by still hold a special piece of my heart. I have met new people everywhere I’ve gone, interacted with the spectators, volunteers, and other runners. I’ve seen the best parts of some cities and the worst of others. I know what hundreds of acres of Indiana farmland looks like rolling out in front of you, and I understand why they call Montana “Big Sky Country.” I’ll never let someone tell me how boring and lame North Dakota is again, because it isn’t. It’s home. And so is Florida, and Maryland, and South Carolina, and Minnesota and Mississippi and Maine and everywhere else I’ve lived or run. I’m home everywhere I go.

Maybe that’s why I’m always gone.

“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.” ― Sarah Dessen

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