I September of 2013, I joined Lodo Toastmasters.
Toastmasters is an organization dedicated to helping people develop their public speaking abilities.
I gave my first Toastmasters Speech sometime in October 2013.
Here was the speech I gave, called: Toward Home
When I was 6 years old, I went to a friend’s birthday party at Funplex.
I don’t know if Funplex even exists anymore, but it was like Dave and Busters, except for kids.
There was a roller skating rink, arcade games, and more.
I had a great time at Funplex, but on the way home, my friend’s dad’s car got a flat.
I’m sure that was not much fun with several small children in the car.
My memories of that are vague, but I remember the sound of a tire popping and then flapping against the road.
I remember the flashing lights of a tow truck, & for some reason, a police siren.
We got back to my friends house, where we were supposed to spend the night.
But I just wanted to go home.
So my dad came and got me, and took me home.
What is home?
I think it’s the place where you feel most like yourself. It’s the place where you can go and know that you’re not only safe, but significant, and loved.
It’s the kind of love that you know will always be there, no matter what.
I grew up in Colorado, on two and a half acres.
Growing up, I planted a lot of trees with my parents and brothers, because behind the two and a half acres is about 150 acres, that the City of Aurora wanted to annex and put up houses on.
My Dad realized that the best way to protect the solar home they had built and invested so much into, would be to plant trees that would block the noise and light that would potentially come from all of those houses.
So now, where there once were only wild grasses, today there are more than a thousand trees. It is literally becoming a forest.
As a family, we worked in the yard, planting trees, planting flowers, planting a vegetable garden, keeping the weeds down, mowing the lawn, morning the field, and we spent a lot of time digging in the dirt.
There were many times growing up that I hated it.
But the trees that I planted became the roots of who I am.
I know that Colorado will always be my home. I grew up looking at the bluest skies in the world and looking to the west at purple mountain Majesties, and knowing exactly what “America the Beautiful” was about. I knew where I was from, and that I belonged near those mountains.
When I went to college at the University of Northern Colorado, I interviewed my German Oma. She had left her home in Germany in 1938 as an 8 year old Jew, escaping the wrath of Hitler and the Nazi movement.
63 years later, as an exchange student studying abroad in Germany, I stood at the Harbor in Hamburg that she had had to leave in 1938.
But in 2001, I was there as a tourist, having complete freedom to explore and discover my surroundings.
I also got to go to the Jewish cemetery in Twistringen, a small city near where I was studying in the town of Oldenburg, Germany.
Perhaps you can imagine walking through an old wooden gate pushed open by an old latch, and walking in to see headstones covered with ivy, discovering the burial plots of your great great grandparents and their ancestors. They were all buried in the family cemetery in the small town.
I visited Twistringen for the first time on Mother’s Day, 2001.
Perhaps you can imagine what I might have felt, knowing that this, too, may have been my home, in a different version of reality, and that it also felt like home in that I descended from these people.
About 8 months after that, I met the woman who would later become my wife at a German club meeting at the University of Northern Colorado.
6 years later, on our honeymoon, we visited her distant cousins in northern Germany, who live 30 minutes away from where I studied in Oldenburg, and 1 hour away from the cemetery (where my great grandparents are buried) in Twistringen.
Driving to the cemetery together, we mused that perhaps our ancestors had been warring tribes 1000 years earlier, or perhaps they had been trading partners.
But on that travel, Germany became a second home for both my wife and I, who both speak German fluently.
Carrie, my wife, has felt like home to me pretty much since the first week I knew her.
It is because she grew to become home for me that I did not need to have a solid home for 2 years, from 2009 to 2011, while we traveled the world together.
In travels to more than thirty countries, I reaffirmed the feeling that Colorado is home, but also discovered a new home in New Zealand, where we lived for 9 months.
I also rediscovered how much Germany feels like home.
Coming back to an American home after traveling the world for 2 years came to be both shocking and overwhelming.
Unfortunately, I did not adjust well.
It took me until October 2013 to understand why.
For many reasons, returning back to America caused me to feel unsafe.
I suddenly felt somewhat unimportant, and I also felt deeply insignificant.
Traveling around the world for 2 years was an amazing journey, but while we were traveling our business changed. And we changed.
Although we didn’t go to the moon, I imagine the feeling that I had – for a long time – was something like what the astronauts felt after they came back from the moon, looked around at the world, and said; “Now what?”
The thing is, when you look at your home, and the place that you have always called home, (which for me is now more than Colorado), and evaluate it with a new set of eyes (eyes which we got while being gone for 2 years), you have to find new ways of feeling safe, and new ways of feeling significant, in order to really be at home.
I don’t have a resolution on this yet, but I definitely know that for me, home is about being safe, and being significant.
Since coming to these realizations…
Purple mountain majesties, tree roots, and the kind of love that you just know will be there no matter what, have become a very important part of my search.