Day 10: Pining for The Place You Used to Belong

The Mountains are yearning

When I was in high school, I carried with me many dreams. Some of them were about vocation (nurse), now many kids I’d have (4), who I’d marry (it’s changed many times since then) and where I’d live (out West).

In college I entered the nursing program and finished four years later. One box checked.  Upon graduation, I teamed upon with another single nurse and headed to Denver, Colorado., the popular Dixie Chicks song, Wide Open Spaces, urging me on.

She needs wide open spaces, 

Room to make her big mistakes

She needs new faces —She knows the high stakes

Colorado. Where I belonged.

I had elevated this place to the status of what the Promiseland was to the Isrealites.

Really, what could be better than living in the shadow of the beckoning mountains? They sing the handiwork of God and made me feel part of something bigger than myself. Three hundred days a year of sunshine, yet still having all the seasons? Sounds like weather perfection.

The vibe was relaxed, adventurous and hedonistic— I loved almost everything about that place. Working three 12 hour shifts a week gave me time to hold a part-time gig at a gear store so I could get my camping equipment at a discount. I  hung out with people that ran ultras for fun, those who could spend an hour vetting out the merits of different tent features and folks that thought the ideal Saturday morning was bagging a 14’er. I trail ran solo in the foothills, when the mountain lion warning signs weren’t up, got tossed from whitewater rafts, drove my Subaru Outback huffing and puffing up I-70 to catch mid-week skiing and spent stints leading women on backpacking trips and working as a camp nurse.

It was simply glorious. I can not really impart to you how much I loved that time in my life, in that place. My quest for adventure and the outdoors was satiated beyond what I could have hoped. My high school dreams come true. I belonged in Colorado.

Enter this guy from college who re-surfaced in my life at a wedding of a mutual friend. We started dating and he moved to Denver, too, to woo me. We fell in love in the shadow of the Rockies, he put a ring on my finger in Estes Park and we got married near Garden of the Gods.

Four years later, we had to leave. He got into business school in Chicago. On to the next adventure.

You can ask my friend, Pam. I talked about Colorado the whole time I was there. How much I loved it, and how awesome it was. It had a grip on me and I was pining for it— I wasn’t released from it yet.

After business school, my husband took a job in Denver so we could get back to the place we loved. But the job wasn’t quite the right fit and the place felt a little different, too. So we moved away again and several times since then, but I’ve always felt a piece of my heart was left in Colorado. It felt like where I needed to be to have the happiest life.

I think that’s how it is. Our good memories trick us a little bit. They tie us to a place…to a person…to a school…to a job. We pine for that situation or place where we used to belong, wishing we could have it back because of the accompanying positive feelings.

When the reality is, we can never have exactly what we had in the past because we have changed since we had what we now pine for. We have to take those old memories, enjoy them for what they are and if we need to, grieve the loss of  what we used to have so we can be released.

When I visited Denver this Spring, it hit me. I’m finally not pining for Colorado like I used to anymore. What I had in the early 2000’s was the excitement of living on my own for the first time, very little responsibility (a.k.a. no kids), young love and nature’s playground to explore. Denver has changed since I lived there, too. The prices and population have skyrocketed, along with my responsibilities. There’s a hipster vibe that I probably couldn’t stomach for long and a love affair with weed that is downright juvenile.

I’ve changed, too. I still love the mountains and sunny days. I love to be outdoors and camp. But my independent spirit is something I’m more interested in cultivating in my kids. My sense of adventure is currently channeled into making sure my family has it’s own fun culture. And I don’t want to be any place but the place God has called me to, and right now that’s Wisconsin….which I might add, is pretty beautiful as well.

I’m not exactly sure how or when the pining stopped, but I think it was mostly a result of watching God’s hand in the subsequent moves we made, knowing that he had reasons for every place we lived, even though it wasn’t Colorado.

If there’s something pulling you to your past, where you used to belong, celebrate it, let it go, mourn it if needed. But don’t let it consume your present. Don’t give up living now for re-living then.  You don’t have to own, be married to, live in or be enrolled at the past place of belonging that haunts you. You’re already carrying the impressions, growth, emotions and knowledge garnered from that place of with you. Use them for your present. Watch what God is doing and trust his purposes.

Colorado, maybe you could save me a little plot of land somewhere for someday. Somewhere where the beetle-kill epidemic isn’t rampant? If not, thanks for the memories—I’ll carry them with me always. And I’ll be back to visit soon.

And as for high school dreams, be careful what you wish for. They just might come true.



  1. Precious Denver! It never let’s go! Very well out in every way:)

    • It keeps you in it’s grip. I’ll always have a part of my heart there. A good start would be to not be pregnant or nursing and be able to go on a backpacking trip! Maybe someday we can have a Redbud one!

  2. I love this. Especially “if theres something pulling you to your past….don’t let it consume your present.” Such good advice. We all do that in some way, maybe not to a place, but to any one of many things. Great, Heidi.


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