July 14, 2006

Twenty Something / Christina Capecchi

Lean on faith in every zip code

Moving away from home to college can be terrifying. The instinct is to pack it all: the Care Bears and the yearbooks and the pictures, proof of popularity and charisma.

The stuff a freshman displays in her new dorm, those choice tokens of her high-school self, serve as the first messenger of her identity.

My half of the dorm emerged pink; my roommate’s came out black. My poster of the U.S. women’s World Cup champions clashed against her poster of the ’80s rock band KISS. The writing was on the wall: We just might clash, too.

I remember packing for college. I played the soundtrack to “Where The Heart Is” to spur me along. The lyrics of a song by Beth Nielsen Chapman struck me:

I’m gonna shake my soul
And release my hold
Givin’ up control
And let the rest unfold
’Cause it’s a long, long way from here to where we go.

It was 250 miles. But moving one state south felt like the earth’s axis tilting.

Over the years, that song has become my moving anthem. I play it whenever it’s time to start packing boxes. Moving does shake the soul. And there’s no bubble-wrap to tape around your heart. It can get bruised.

Moving always seems to trigger self-inventory. Unearthing dusty drawers, unfolding crumpled papers, unfreezing memorable moments. I contemplate how the person I introduce today differs from the one I extended five years ago. And I search for clues in the contents of each cardboard box.

The stationery signals my intention to keep in touch. The candles reflect my yearning for solitude. The board games signal my hope for social bonding.

I’m moving all the pieces of me. But every time, they get a bit rearranged.

Moving is an inevitable part of young adulthood. We’re a mobile generation at a mobile stage of life. The apartment I just moved into marks my fourth address since graduating from college two years ago.

Gen Y is poised to undergo more career moves than any previous generation, too. We’ll switch cubicles, rewrite five-year plans and haul dented dreams. And like it or not, we’ll develop flexibility. Grit.

Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for every season: “A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.” A time for duct tape and daring, homesickness and reunions.

As Catholics, we’re called to change. We’re called to live the Gospel of the ultimate nomad, Jesus, a little better every day. More heart, less ego.

Pope Benedict XVI went through a soul-shaking move last year. It took him months to feel settled in the 10-room papal apartment. The arrival of his 20,000 books helped.

“For me, it’s like being surrounded by friends, now that there are books on the shelf,” the Holy Father said.

The good news: Moving invites growth and grace. It prompts us to rely on the faith we often take for granted, a constant amidst flux, a pillar for every new place. Nothing beats prayer when you’re trying to convert panic into peace.

The final pages of the Bible remind us that the kingdom of God transcends every zip code. “God’s dwelling is with the human race (Rv 21:3).”

And our steadfast God is wonderfully innovative. “Behold,” he says, “I make all things new (Rv 21:3).”

(Christina Capecchi is a graduate student at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. E-mail her at christinacap@gmail.com.) †


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