The older I get, the more I have learned to just love where I am in the moment…
I have lived in Jacksonville, NC for 24 years now. Growing up in a military family, I became very accustomed to moving around every 2-3 years, and I have to admit that I kind of enjoyed it as a kid. I liked the “fresh-start” feeling each time we landed in a new town. I LOVED making new friends everywhere we went, and no one was ever a stranger. So when the Marine Corps brought us to Jacksonville in 1989, which was 8th grade for me, I had no expectation of remaining here for very long. Boy, was I wrong! I was even more surprised when I first heard myself telling my future husband (who was a Marine at the time) that I would only consider going on a date with him if he could promise never to move me from my home here.
I was the kid who couldn’t wait to either get away to a university somewhere far, far away, join the military or ANYTHING that would lead me away from this one-horse town. It’s funny how life can happen and teach you to slow down a bit & to just enjoy being right where you are. I am now the mother of three beautiful daughters, ages 18, 16 and 6 years old. My oldest daughter will be leaving for college in just five days from the time I am writing this, and she has decided to make her new home on the other side of the state. Looking back over the years I have spent here in Jacksonville with them, I notice a very funny feeling in my throat (I think this is what they call “getting choked up”), and my eyes feel a bit hot & watery. I now know that there is nothing in this world that could make me trade the years I have spent here watching the sunsets on the beach, stopping at the local farmer’s markets, playing at the parks, teaching the girls to ride bikes, family cookouts, and so many more memory-building activities. Now that the time is almost here to gently nudge my first-born little girl out into the “real world”, I can’t drive past any individual landmark within a 20 mile radius of my home without seeing her freckled-face little smile.
I am a Realtor by occupation, and most of my clients are young, military families who are new to the Jacksonville area. I smile warmly inside when I hear those who profess to detest this place so much as they carry their little ones on a hip and wipe the baby drool on a bib. I can’t help but wonder if they, too will fall in love with the smell of the Carolina beaches at noon when all of the sun-bathers are out in July. I wonder if they will find themselves saying, “This place is not so bad. I’m not ready to leave.”
No matter where this life takes me from now on, whether it right back to the shore of North Topsail Beach just miles from my home or to the other side of the country in the snowy mountains somewhere, I have to always remember what a beautiful life this really is. Sometimes you will find yourself in places that may not be exactly where you think you want to be. But if you just stop to enjoy all that is going on around you, thank God for what you have and learn to notice the beauty that takes most people years to discover after their lives have already passed them by, you may find that a one-horse town like Jacksonville, NC just might be place you make some pretty incredible memories in that will last your heart a lifetime.