Dear ol' Winston-Salem, North Carolina...

I've been a resident of Winston-Salem my entire life. Actually, I've not only lived on the same street in the same neighborhood my entire life... I've lived in the same house. The house where my parents brought me as soon as they left the hospital is the same house that saw my first steps as a baby and my first kiss as a teenager. At that address, I learned to write my name, learned to ride a bike, and learned that I had been accepted to college. The room where I spent my childhood playing Barbies became the room where I got ready for prom... and then became the room where I received a phone call offering me a full-time job.

For over 22 years of my life, Winston-Salem was home.

Sure, I didn't always live there. For five summers, I packed as much as I could into a couple of duffel bags and traded my single bedroom in for a Virginia cabin shared by a dozen other girls. I loaded up even more stuff as I ventured east to attend college in Durham for four years. Yet during all of that, Winston-Salem was still home. My driver's license said so. My voter registration card said so. My bank said so. And above all, my heart said so.

My time living at camp and in Durham was only temporary; my new address always had a start date and an end date, and then it was back to Winston-Salem.

Then came the time to begin searching for a full-time job.

Obviously, today's economy doesn't care about where home is, so my list of places to apply followed suit. Sure, the majority of the positions for which I applied were located in the North Carolina or Virginia area, with the occasional Tennessee, Florida, Arizona, Colorado, and California thrown in. But still. Only a handful of the openings were actually home, and I ended up with a job two hours east in Raleigh.

So I moved.

Except this time, it wasn't so temporary.

The thing is: it felt temporary. Not in a sense that I had plans to move onto something else after a short amount of time, but simply in a way that the packing and moving and decorating and excitement was all too familiar after four years of new starts to the school year on a college campus. It was a routine I'd come to know all too well, and at the end of the routine, I always found my way back to Winston-Salem.

The moment I realized that this time was different?

After not living in the same city as my local bank all throughout college and well into my time in Raleigh, I decided it would be much more convenient to suck it up and open an account nearby, if only for having a place to deposit checks immediately. So last month, I set out to do just that. I filled out the forms and brought a few checks along that had been sitting on my kitchen counter for far too long. I met with a nice lady who tried to convince me to buy into all these perks, even when I told her that I was simply using them to deposit miscellaneous checks so they wouldn't sit on my counter for a month because my real bank was two hours away in Winston-Salem.

And then... I cried.

Why I had my grand "I don't live in Winston-Salem any more" epiphany nearly eight months after I moved to Raleigh is beyond me. Signing an apartment lease in Raleigh didn't do it. Setting up insurance and electricity and internet in Raleigh didn't do it. Watching my family leave Raleigh after helping carry all of my stuff up to the top floor of the apartment complex didn't do it. But, oh... the bank account. The bank account clearly meant that I lived in Raleigh, which clearly meant that I didn't live in Winston-Salem... which clearly meant that I needed to break down and sob while still in the bank. (The nice lady had stepped out of the room to get some forms, mind you. I'm not completely crazy.)

I've somewhat come to terms with everything since then: I live in Raleigh with my husband, and this is my home. The city where I got nine stitches and learned to do a back handspring on the balance beam and spent every Sunday with both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins is also my home. And that's okay. One of these days, I'd love for the place I call home with my husband to be the place I've called home my entire life. But until then, I'm alright with this home arrangement, even if it doesn't come with a definitive end date like I've been accustomed to in the past.

If I were super cheesy, this would be an opportune spot for the equivalent of a "home is wherever I'm with you" quote, but instead, I'll share some photos from my trip home (Winston-Salem) this past weekend:

Home is... sisters, all of whom are officially adults :)

Home is... a birthday cake shaped like a sheep in honor of the baby lamb of the family.

Home is... midnight party planning sessions that result in the genius idea to take the sheep theme to a whole new level.

Home is... a family that willingly plays along out of love.

Home is... awkward, sometimes, like when you find this tacked to the ceiling above your bed for the weekend.

Home... really is wherever I'm with you (I never said I wasn't cheesy).

I'm excited to see where that takes us in the years ahead.