I have spent the majority of my life moving from place to place, settling in only to be uprooted soon thereafter. I guess you could say that my roots have never had a real chance to grow very deep – but with growth and maturity, I’ve come to value the strength that comes from changes in my environment. Most importantly, I’ve come to see that roots not only need to be well-established but far-reaching and interconnected.
When I moved to Tucson for my YAV year in 2010, I was moving to a place I had previously lived (if only for a short time). This was actually the first time I would be making a move “back,” so to speak. And until recently, when I moved to Chicago, I thought Tucson might have been a place where I’d stay permanently planted.
As I have reflected upon my YAV experience, I am realizing that being rooted in a particular place might not be as important as being connected to each other. For one thing, I have found that pretty much anywhere I go, I am part of the YAVA (YAV alumni/ae) community, and these hospitable folks will always welcome me into their homes. But even more so, I have come to realize that when we work together for justice and change, the bonds created between us are ones that can’t really be “uprooted.”
As I have reflected upon my YAV experience, I am realizing that being rooted in a particular place might not be as important as being connected to each other.
During my YAV year I had the opportunity to participate in the “Migrant Trail,” in which a group of people from around the United States walk from just south of the Mexico-US border 75 miles to Tucson. This walk is made in solidarity with those who are driven away from their homes in Mexico to seek new opportunities in the states. For reasons beyond their control, these people have to make the difficult choice to uproot from their families, culture, and history and travel north in hopes of making ends meet. And unfortunately they are rarely allowed to fully re-plant their tired roots into this land to their north. At any moment, whether it is immediately after they attempt to cross or 20 years later, they are often uprooted and sent away.
I am blessed to have the choice to move around or stay settled, and I have to remember that this is not everyone’s reality. I am deeply grateful for my experiences and my new-found awareness. The people that have helped me understand my privilege and challenged me to fight for the rights of others will be forever linked to my heart. While I may not be physically rooted in the same place as these people and others, I know I am a part of a common community and can’t escape the bonds between us all.
AUTHOR BIO: Meredith Wilkinson participated in the YAV program in Tucson, Arizona, from 2010-2011. She continued living and working in the city for the next three years, but has recently moved to Chicago, IL, where she plans to return to school to get her masters in Social Work.
Read more stories by YAV Alumni/ae about new life routes!
Read more articles from the young adult issue!