When I was four, and Na and I had separate rooms, Dad went on a painting kick and re-painted the exterior and interior walls of our house. He let Na and me choose the color of our room (it had to be the same though because there was no way he'd buy more than one color that he'd probably never use again) and so we chose, as most little girls would, pink.
"Don't touch the paint," Dad instructed after he finished my room. He let me walk inside though to see the new color. When he wasn't looking, I reached a finger out and poked at a spot near the window. The paint got on my finger and left a splotch of the white wall underneath it uncovered. I didn't tell Dad (obviously) and he didn't notice.
Every time I go home, I always expect something to be different, but Sacramento rarely changes -- at least, not the Sacramento I see in my mind's eye. The landmarks are still there, the streets curve the same and my house still looks as if the trim was just painted that cornflower blue. With the exception of some additions and items shifted around, it feels like nothing has changed within my house. While I was living at home, I got so used to it that I hadn't realized how stagnant the environment was. The music notes from seventh grade are still on the kitchen walls, Yosemite Sam is still on the whiteboard, the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers poster is still on the closet and the splotch of white wall near my bedroom window is still there. It's all been untouched.
Sitting in my old room, I realized how much everything really has stood still. The posters and pictures and memorabilia on the walls are all the same -- from the Johnny Depp posters to old LHS paraphernalia. Old journals still line the desk and there's still a Gundam Wing action figure or two. You never really realize how much you change until you return to a place where your former self has been frozen in time. If I were to move back home and live in my old room, I don't think I could maintain any semblance of the person I've become. The longest I've stayed back in Sacramento since moving away has been, at most, two weeks for winter break. The length is not enough time to bring my changed persona back into my childhood environment.
When you leave for an extended period of time without making a regular appearance in people's lives, they tend to lose track of you and forget bits and pieces of who you were. Most times, they have trouble seeing that you've changed so their perception of you remains that of what they remember from "the good ol' days." I notice this the most in my high school friends, the people I'd had as my family for four years. All too quickly, that bond and connection falls apart unless you make a conscious effort to keep it up. Being hundreds of miles away, it's hard to do so. There's a desire to hold on to the people of the past in order to preserve your hometown roots, yet that keeps you from really moving on and embracing your present and, inevitably, your future. I let that happen for quite some time, and to no avail.
So how do you keep yourself grounded, knowing that the place you set your roots no longer has room for you to grow? I suppose the only answer I can suggest to that vague and open question is simply the title of this post: you have to have (invasive) roots before branches. We all "move on" in life, as nothing really remains static, and there's no sense in staying trapped in the past and dwelling in the fact that the place you called home is no longer really that. Growth goes upwards and climbing higher, despite not knowing how high that is or whether there's a possibility a branch will snap and fall, is the interesting part of that journey.
If I had truly known and understood that lesson three years ago, my experience in Irvine would have been different. But who likes playing the "what if" game? To be honest, I'm glad it took me three years to figure it out for myself because it makes the other trees and their branches that I've intertwined with all the more amazing.