Friday, October 17, 2014

Home Is Where the Heart Is

After a long hiatus, it's about time I publish something I've written. On that note, how do I properly capitalize this title anyways?

One of the more interesting things I've tested over the past year is the idea of home. What it is, where it can be found, its importance to me. The past year has flipped my idea of home on its head and challenged my understanding of what this word and the oft-quipped saying really mean.

A brief history of my relationship with the word brings me first to Maryland, then Virginia, where I spent my childhood. The trees and rolling hills, beautiful autumns and humid summers, fireflies alighting at night, times spent outside with friends. Home was a familiar place, geographically known, with parameters measured in comfort and ease. I even had "Second Home," Miami, where I visited extended family and had been born.

I moved to Florida and began high school in a foreign place where people wore jeans in the absolutely sticky humidity. I had viewed Miami as a sort of home, so Florida wasn't alien, but having to actually root in Florida proved more jarring than expected. It's as if to build up the shaky internal bindings around my self, I looked to external stability, in particular familiarity with the land and geography, for strength. The loss of my stability, among other things in a chaotic adolescence, was painful, and I spent years "hating" Florida without really understanding exactly why. I still don't, but the process moves gradually.

Home for me was external stability to orient towards in a chaotic inner landscape. Home was land containing beauty that filled my soul and let me rest a bit outside of my million-mile-an-hour mind. Home, at some level, was safety and comfort in a world that felt scary.

How does one define 'home' when wings are spread, a search begins, and the internal is more stable than the external? Maybe home begins internally, where heart meets soul in deep places. We are not the beginning and end, but maybe Home flows outward, and we can start there.

As I'm preparing for my fifth address this calendar year, it gives me peace to center in the deep places. For the girl who found (and still finds) transition jarring, who takes comfort in familiar geography and traversing streets known to her feet, I still find it a bit wild that I've spent so much time moving, stepping into the things I both dreamed of and feared.

I look forward to the day when home becomes more external again as the constant 'hellos' and 'goodbyes' are tiring. Until then, however, my home is where my heart is; I carry it with me.

My friend and I pondering the concept of 'home.'
He's pretty settled; I'm a bit envious.

Beaches and expressive skies.

 A sunset in Florida's hill country. The sunsets here can be pretty stunning.

Beer flows aplenty in so-called Beer City, USA.

My next move is anticipated to be Asheville, NC for massage therapy school.
I know I love living near mountains, now to experiment with living in the mountains.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Native Floridian

A long weekend spent in Orlando is just what the doctor ordered for this frustrated twenty three year old. Friends, family, and time to relax by not doing anything, something Floridians are pretty good at. While I grew up in the DC area, I was born in Miami and have spent a fair amount of time in Florida whether it's been living there or vacationing. I'm learning to embrace my roots there and have taken upon myself the role of Flori-educator. No, we're not all crazy like the Florida Man Twitter feed would lead you to believe, but we are a bit off our rockers. I blame the weather.

Anyways, something amazing I've learned from this past year is that the more I've settled into myself, the less I've needed my external surroundings (city, state, friend group, items owned, etc.) to help me define myself. Moving around and driving cross-country has shown me the beauty of this country and its people, and it has opened my eyes to the reality that I could live anywhere and be okay. I do want to find a place where I want to be and where I feel like I can spread my wings and plant my feet, but I don't need a place like I used to. It's freeing, grounding, and gives me agency to make my own choices. I can select my path and pursue it accordingly.

All this being said, I am thoroughly convinced that the DMV (DC area, since when have we called ourselves this??) is not for me. Not in the slightest. As I've become more authentically me, I've moved internally and no longer desire the busyness of a massive city, the competition of a driven culture, the aggression and energy output of carving out a space for myself, and the need to constantly be entertained by external things. To use my first-day-of-kindergarten phrase, "This is not for me."

There is no judgment against this area, but rather an acknowledgment that I desire to be somewhere where I feel more comfortable. I encountered many difficulties while growing up here and can't discount how worn down I am from constantly reorienting myself out of panic-response neural pathways, which is something unique to me that many people here would not be experiencing. Needless to say, I'm grateful for the opportunity to heal and reintegrate in the place where it all started, but the work is arduous, unseen, and rather lonely, and I look forward to leaving the pressure cooker behind.

My current plan is to return to Orlando to rest and go back to school for massage therapy. I don't know for how long, I don't know where massage therapy will lead, but I really hold to the quote from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, "Not all who wander are lost," and I trust the process and journey enough (having done my own literal one) to take steps now without being able to anticipate or know where I'm heading.

I may not know where I'm headed, but I'm going.

Street art near Union Market

Behold, Union Market, home of a lovely (expensive) home goods store and amazing ice cream

Perfect spring evening on the Potomac

I was in Japan... in Epcot

Reading time by the pool (I recommend both magazines)

My amazing sister and best friend, Tova, in one of my favorite pictures from my trip

Tea and a scone

My family and I at the British tea house in Mt. Dora

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Van and I

I have spent more time than I ever dreamed in a Dodge Sprinter this past week. It’s pretty much a large delivery van that I bring people their groceries in. Among other things it's good for looming over cars and SUVs, exploring the city, and parking illegally while making deliveries.  Seriously, I can’t tell you how much joy it gives me to double park, block alleys, hang out in fire lanes, and park in front of hydrants, all in the name of groceries FOOD.

Side effects of this job include having lots of time to ponder things, which is excellent since I like to live in my head. Recently, I accepted and began to honor the side of me that is bold and speaks. Doing so has opened the door for me to be successful at city driving in the big ol’ van, if we want to be obvious about things, but I’ve noticed internal shifts that go along with it. For starters, I am not afraid to speak up and put limits on my time spent at work, as I’m a lady of leisure and highly value having space and time. I can say enough, delineate the semi-permeable membrane of my boundaries, and respectfully stand up for myself while understanding and responding to business needs.

More importantly though, I no longer feel shame when men holler at me or are rude about my appearance. Instead, I find myself responding to the objectification. I have a voice and, when I feel physically safe, will use it to speak against a culture I often encounter that places excessive value on my appearance and ignores my voice as a woman. I read a spot-on blog post here and am appreciative of the woman who wrote words to the thoughts that have bounced inside of me. I have a desire to be respected and appreciated as a woman, as a human being.

While I put my foot in my mouth often enough and don't really play well by the "rules," this boldness is empowering and feels more “me.". It’s a continuation of the process that began last fall of reconnecting with and reintegrating my feisty inner five year old, and the result now is that I am less reactive and more conscious and precise with my voice. It feels good to honor and cherish an integral part of myself while constantly learning how and when to speak.

Oh, the things you'll think while doing home deliveries.

Parallel parked the SketchMobile. The one I've been driving has logos on it, thankfully.

I'm a sucker for brick, trees, and quaint architecture. I'm loving where I live, I just wish it were further out from DC.

I've gotten into the practice of beautifying with fresh flowers.

Naturally, I'm reading things that involve food and drink
and writing this all from a bangin' coffee shop near my house
while thinking about where I'll go to eat because I'm hungry.

 Speaking of food, thank you Yelp for guiding me to dinner while I was out doing deliveries near Baltimore.
It was exactly as described, a large shack in a strip club's parking lot.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014


This word is fantastic because it can foster both peace and security. I can only speak for my experience, but I have found that when I let it permeate my being, I am at ease. I am enough. In a place where I am sensitive to demanding expectations, this word lets me rest gently. Enough doesn't mean perfection, enough isn't controlling, enough doesn't let you off easy, it simply grounds. That's all that's necessary.

Enough also allows me to draw a line around my space, around me. Enough let's me voice displeasure over, for lack of a better word, bullshit, and then move on. Enough creates a semi-permeable membrane around my being that allows me the power to welcome what is good and necessary while rejecting what is harmful, damaging, and counterproductive.

I am enough, just by being. You are enough, just by being. We are enough, just by being.

This is enough for me.

Now, various updates. I have been living in Alexandria, a few miles from DC for the past month with two lovely roommates. The job situation got a little too exciting, but I start a full-time position tomorrow with a company where I will, among other things, get to drive a truck. Childhood dream, check. Other than that, life moves quickly, and I'm just trying to keep up. I look forward to living somewhere with a slower pace and am missing the mountains something fierce.

If nothing else, I'm realizing how much data I've gathered from wandering the better part of the past year. I look forward to creating/finding/having external stability to match my internal stability, and to not physically wandering the corners of this country. I have, however, loved the cross-country driving, as well as the people I've met and things I've seen. That's another blog post. I manage about one a month. Oh goody.

Stay tuned!

The Capitol Building from the Mall during dusk

The best time to see the memorials is at night. I loved the FDR and Dr. King memorials;
this quote is from the latter.

Spring has sprung in my neighborhood!

 Flowers across the street from an interesting job I was working...
Let's just say it's worth its own post. So funny and so frustrating.

I worked at the US Science and Engineering Festival this past weekend and have learned why the agents in The Matrix were so pissy. Those ear pieces are annoying!

Take a ride on the Magic School Bus! 

Although I'm not part of the STEM crowd, it was interesting to see the breadth and variety of groups represented at the festival, as well as to meet people who were unapologetically excited about what they were doing and what was happening.

I didn't have a chance to really go through and explore the exhibits since I was working, but it was a really unique experience, and I'm glad to have been able to work at it. Among other things I saw 3-D printers in action, learned that Humboldt squids change their coloring to communicate with each other (Squids4Kids at Sanford), and ate copious amounts of brownies in the staff office.

I also accidentally told a woman at the International Women in Mathematics Society booth that I "stopped dealing with math in elementary school." This is a wee bit of a lie because I enjoyed statistics in college, but I am glad I got to be the stereotype they're working to counteract. You're welcome, IWMS.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Gallivanting, Pt. 1

As suggested to me by several people, I'm going to attempt to document some of the tales from my cross-country drives (2 and counting!). This first one was my move to Walla Walla, and the trip was with my mom.

Part 1: Florida to Arkansas

In typical fashion, my plan for driving cross-country was, and I quote, "Well, I'll be in Tallahassee and then we'll just drive this way *diagonal motion* to get to Boise. And I like Denver, so we'll stop there too." My Dad sat me down and helped me plan a route, apparently "we'll just go like this" isn't a satisfactory plan of action.

The first stop after Orlando was Tallahassee to see my lovely sister-from-the-same-mister. During this particular time, I-10 was under construction and a lane was closed. This business of having only one lane open was a theme for the trip, and I think we found one in every state we had the pleasure of driving through.

Next stop, somewhere in Arkansas. With the time frame we'd given ourselves, the goal was to drive as far as possible, preferably near Little Rock. We sauntered through the mountainous Florida Panhandle and I entered new territory: Alabama. It's an interesting state, a combination of Southern hospitality and "GTFO." Highlights include:

The confusion regarding a certain road we took from Birmingham to Memphis. Said road was marked on all maps as state road 70-whatever, but the signage in Alabama proclaimed Interstate 22. Not being sure of what this was, we did some sleuthing to discover that the road  is not currently an interstate but will be once it meets certain guidelines (Wikipedia). This doesn't matter in Alabama where you are on I-22, dammit. In Mississippi, signs along the road lamented, "Future home of the I-22 Corridor," but didn't seem to challenge the federal government.

Did I mention the I-22 signs in Alabama were also massive?

The towns of Guin, Gu-Win, Twin, Glen Allen, and Brilliant. In case you were wondering, Guin and Gu-Win are right next to each other and pronounced the same way.

We stopped at Corky's BBQ in Memphis for dry rub Memphis BBQ. It. Was. Amazing. Seriously, those ribs are one of the best things I've eaten, period. We got them to-go, parked at a gas station, rolled down the windows, and began to chow down.

Suddenly, cicada. This beast came flying in, caused a ruckus, and then ended up near the bottom of my door. I opened the door to shoo it out and, satisfied once I couldn't hear anything, shut the door and rolled up the windows, ready to enjoy my ribs in peace. My mom said she thought it was still in the car, but we couldn't hear anything and the topic was left at that.

The following morning we walked out to the car to see a large cicada dying in my seat. Not only was my mom right (as she often is), but I was worried I had suffocated the cicada by sitting on it. The cicada episode is one of the highlights of the trip, but I promise it only goes uphill from here.

Dinner is served.

The cicada that spent its final days near an Arkansas parking lot. RIP

Friday, March 7, 2014

Leap of Faith

"Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith."
 -Margaret Shepard

In addition to the trolling, cat videos, and Buzzfeed lists populating the Internet, one also has access to an immense array of inspirational quotes. The snippet above quickly became one of my favorites after I saw it on Pinterest last year and is one of the few I enjoy disseminating to the general public.

What I like about Margaret Shepard's quote is that it's not aggressive, manipulative, or belittling like many can become. It's simple without being condescending, hopeful without being stupid, and is pretty easy to visualize. The problem I have with a lot of these so-called inspirational quotes is that they almost seem to berate those of us not taking huge risks and living "extraordinary" lives. Yes, it's good to be motivated, and many of us probably need more than we receive, but there's a line between a pep talk and bullying to drive a point home.

There are so many reasons why people live their lives in ways that practically reduce risk to zero. There are reasons why it's easier to stay "stuck" in an uncomfortable place rather than venture out into the open in search of something more. There are reasons why it's safer to disconnect from your friends and family, the people around you, your self, than it is to take the chance of showing off who you are in that moment on that day. There are reasons why it's more convenient to stick with what is known instead of looking into the unknown and only being able to see your own reflection.

There are reasons that are valid, okay, and rooted deeply in survival. And heck, obviously you've had to survive to get to the point of reading this.

But sometimes one's present pain becomes greater than the threat of change.

And that's when you may have to take a leap. All the calculations in the world can't guarantee us anything in this life as life owes us nothing. Still, I have enough hope that there's good in the world, and that there's enough to cushion us where we land.

But we have to jump first.

That gets me to another aspect of the quote I like. It doesn't say that you always must be choosing risk and leaping off bridges to live a full life. Sometimes we have to jump, sometimes it's our only option, our only mode of getting from the stagnant to the overflowing. The leaps may be little, they may be large, they may be individual or communal. There is no quantification because you can't reduce a person to data, to numbers, to an algorithm. Our souls are more expansive than that.

Sometimes you have to make a leap.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Plot Twist!

Switching Washington's has been probably one of the weirdest experiences of mine to date. I ended up here because of a fateful visit last December where I was just entranced with the city and realized how much I just missed it and wanted to be back here (I grew up in the area). Things fell into place, and I left my barely-adopted state of Washington for the historic landscape of the DC region.

There's a quote I like, "When things in your life go wrong, shout, 'Plot twist!' and move on." While I'm not sure exactly what's meant by "wrong," I do appreciate the acknowledgement that life is funny like this. Things happen unexpectedly, change happens, time continues flowing, and the road through life contains as many blind curves and steep grades as the Pacific Coastal Highway.

I had the best drive of my life in Big Sur

I like to think of lives like narratives, that each of us has a unique life story that's held inside these frames of skin and bones. We can be the authors of our own lives, but that first means being willing to take responsibility and accept the risks that come from living. I've come to realize that I'm not who I thought I was or wanted to be, and letting go of these descriptors, self- or externally-imposed, is a challenge. You must be willing to accept the unknown, step into it, and let it be. When mystics speak of death to the self and desire, many are pointing to the process of letting go of what is not authentic, what is not really you, and in this process a truer, more authentic self is (re)born.

The times in life where things aren't working out as we'd hoped, we aren't who we thought, and life seems to be the Pacific Coastal Highway shrouded in fog are universal. I take comfort in knowing that the uncertainty and switchbacks aren't unique to just me, though that doesn't exactly remove the sting from shedding my old skin when it's time to grow. It's in this shedding when I have a chance to take ownership of the change and grow further into myself and the ground on which I stand. I shout, "Plot twist!" when I realize things aren't as expected, and then I do my best to let go of what-was and embrace what-is in the life story I'm writing. 

Cadillac Ranch in North Texas
 A monument to Route 66 which is pretty much I-40 now. Plot twist!

Monday, January 13, 2014

On the Move

Something I think people often underestimate about moving is how exhausting it is. Sure, it's exciting and new opportunities abound everywhere, but it also can be really tiring. This isn't to say it's impossible, should be avoided, or doesn't have its benefits, but rather to reach out to everyone else I know who's in this transition (or wants to be).

While I'm certainly not an expert on moving (see: Third Culture Kids, military brats), I did manage to have four addresses last year and have spent a whopping four days at my newest one in Seattle. Through this I've learned a lot about myself, who I thought I was vs. who I am, and how to cope with transition in healthy ways for me, including:

1. I don't really like moving.

Nope. I like having my possessions organized, room clean, and having each item in its correct space. I blame my enjoyment of interior design, but seriously, moving drives me a little bonkers. I was essentially living out of suitcases from early August until yesterday and did not anticipate how a dresser would help me feel more stable. I look at it this way, I'm a very aesthetically-driven (-minded?) person, and having my immediate environment in order allows me to have a stable physical space to operate out of.

It also just looks better, let's be honest, I like when things look good.

2. Moving isn't the only way to create excitement in my life.

While I've been moving away from overly rigid "black-and-white" thinking, I naturally go that direction since I tend to be a bit more of an "all or nothing" person. I actually enjoy that intensity, but I'm seeing how it can get me into situations where more nuances, more gray, is called for. I think of myself as an adventurous person and truly love exploring, and I'm seeing more clearly that a) my definition of what adventurous and exploratory needs to expand, b) it doesn't have to be you either settle down forever or keep moving, and c) there's something called traveling.

I don't know what the next few months, let along years, will hold, but I am slowly but surely quickly reaching a point where I don't want to move around constantly. There's something fabulous about being in a place where people know you and you know people. That takes time.

3. Everyone deals with moving differently.

Going with my tendency to explore my environment, I deal with moving by exploring my surroundings. Take a walk through the new neighborhood? Sure! Find a library where you can sit in the Quiet Room for multiple hours and shoot death glares at people who disturb the peace? Doing that right now! Find the grocery store(s)? Yes!

Everyone is different and copes with transition differently, but moving has made it clear to me that I find it important to understand where I am, and that part of how I understand a place is by using my senses. As someone who tends to rely heavily on her intuition, relying on a sensory experience is kind of invigorating.

4. Moving is difficult.

Now this isn't to say it's bad, I already wrote that once in here, but it is difficult, even when desired. You leave behind your family, friends, a life you know, and venture into a situation (or situations) where everything is new and unknown. It gets pretty overwhelming at times, but it gets better. Slowly but surely a place will be more comfortable, especially as you find places to be and meet people, but initially it's a huge jolt.

Tip: Saving up money to cover living expenses for several months makes it a LOT less stressful. I'm very thankful for the money I have saved because it allows me more breathing space and is one less thing on my mind. This isn't to say I'm spending money freely, but I space.

Here's a train just chillin' in the road. I made a U-turn out of impatience, drove in a big circle, and then cursed at the Seattle roads that I don't understand.

Space Needle with the skyline in the background.

I am being driven batty by the clouds (and massive amounts of change don't help), but there's no better feeling than when the sun peeks out. Also, Puget Sound is gorgeous.

I'm happy to not be living out of suitcases for the first time since August! Best $20 purchase yet on Craigslist.