I was running in my suit. The shoulders of my blazer had become a soggy straightjacket, restricting my arms in a suffocating hug. Gray rain danced under the New York street lamps like dust blown off a bookshelf. My feet, stuffed into black Nike tennis shoes, pounded against the sidewalk as I dodged fellow pedestrians. I was running late, literally. I was never not running late, cramming 10,000 things into 5,000 moments. It was my third week of work and I was sprinting to make it to my yoga class. It did register in my mind that there is more than a little bit of irony in being stressed about making it to a yoga class, but alas. I was desperate for a release.
Eyes on my iPhone clock, I was hardly looking up. Weaving in and out of the people walking home from work, my breath was the only thing I could hear. Half a mile more. My focus lasered in on the path I was going to take, planning whether I should turn here or cut across there. An internal Google Maps, trying to find the best route, simultaneously beating myself up for cutting it this close.
Children’s laughter like bells, such an unexpected noise, jolted me back into reality. To my left, a peewee soccer game. Bright orange jerseys against emerald green artificial turf, a mini oasis in the concrete jungle. Humans at play. Tow-headed siblings wrapped around their mom’s legs as she tried to talk to the mom next to her. Humans connecting, loving, being with each other.
And I became acutely aware of the ridiculousness of my current situation Me, a water-logged Hillary Clinton, in such a rush to go to a yoga class just to be able to relax. I slowed to a walk, my heart pumping against my chest. I looked up at the New York skyscrapers dwarfing me and felt like the smallest person in the world.
I had felt this loneliness before. Two days after college graduation, I flew to a remote village in Thailand and meditated for ten days in silence. “What are you looking for?” My friends and family had asked before I left. I didn’t know. I really didn’t know what I was hoping to find. Truly, the only thing I knew was that I would not have ten uninterrupted days to meditate in the near future, so I should take the chance to do a Vipassana retreat when I could.
The retreat, it was isolation in its purest form. No eye contact. No words spoken. No reading, no writing, no exercising, no technology. No stimuli. Just me and the inner recesses of my consciousness. I admit- I was pretty scared of what might come up in my consciousness over those ten days. What was I going to do when I had to really call attention to the stories I had told myself about myself?
And I didn’t realize then, but I do realize now, what I was seeking in that 10-day meditation retreat and all the other wacky wellness fads and trends I have tried. Home. I sought, within myself, a home.
The concept of home- best known to us in the form of a house, a physical, tangible, safe place of refuge- it becomes tricky when you graduate college. See, your college campus is no longer your home, it never really was. And your childhood home, well that feels stale, despite familiar, and frankly, there is no chance in heck you are moving back there for longer than a transition period. The new place you just moved, the one where you are still living in boxes (I had only been there a month okay!), it isn’t home yet, and you aren’t sure if it ever will be. We are all searching for home, but don’t have the courage to say it, for fear that we are the only ones feeling lost. What can we do to come home when we aren’t sure what home really is any more?
Now five months later....
I revisited this journal entry today, on the 6 month anniversary of my move to New York City. As I read, reliving those feelings of bone-gripping loneliness, I marveled at all that has changed in a short matter of months. Finally settled, really settled, I have roots in the concrete. I know my doormen by name and have a regular routine walk to work down to the second. I have favorite coffee shops and a yoga studio that welcomes me like a second family. Ran 26.2 miles through the streets of New York and threw my boyfriend a surprise party in the basement of a beerhall. With friends, found a cafe with the biggest collection of board games in the world and laid in Central Park and stared at the clouds. Cried, sweat, been sweat on, also probably been cried on, in the subway. Unbeknownst to me, I think I am making a life here. Each Tuesday, a group of amazing girlfriends and I have “Soul Tavern Tuesday,” where we share our wins of the day and one bit of art (a piece of the soul) or tidbit that we want to share. I’ve led a loving-kindness meditation and read the rough draft of my TED talk and shown my Story Lab video. What a gift it is to have a place I can be fully myself.
I don’t think we talk enough about how strange it is to graduate college, how unsettling it can be to feel to be without a home. We spend our whole lives being told essentially what to do, have a roadmap laid out for us on what to do next since the day we start preschool. Then May of your senior year comes, and no longer is there a clearly defined way forward. What do we do next?
We work for 12 years through the education system and then the real work begins. The messy work. The self-studying. The stripping away of layers we built up over the years, peeling back the stories that we told ourselves about what we are, (student, athlete, etc.) so that we might uncover who we are.
After six months living in New York, I would not say that I know exactly who I am or that I don’t still go the wrong direction on the subway at least once a week. But, I have roots down here. I feel more stable, secure, supported. Rooted, now to focus on rising. Expanding my boundaries, pushing out of my comfort zone. Over the next six months, or six years, I look forward to seeing how this city will foster personal growth in shapes and heights beyond my current imagination.
New York may never feel like home, and Michigan may never feel like home again, but I know now that home does not have to be a physical space. Home is a feeling. It can be within you. Regardless of where you are or how long you have been there, I hope you may be able to return home at any moment.
My mantra over the past six months has been, “I have created a home within myself.” I recommend you say it to yourself, just once or twice, and experience how it feels. “I have created a home within myself.” Whisper it to yourself when you feel lost. You don’t have to search any longer. Home is within you, it always has been. You have the power to return home any moment. Nothing is more freeing than that.