Re-dressing

I am back in San Diego and excited to have more clothing than what I carried on my back the past eight months. Getting dressed this morning, I was struck, though, by the ways that my clothes fit differently.

A shirt flares out at the hips in a way I didn’t remember; my pants feel tight in my thighs.

I likely misremembered some of my clothes, like this shirt’s quirky cut. The rose-colored lens of nostalgia remembered how things felt on a bright day more than what they were. I don’t think the material changed from lack of use, but its tempting to say that’s another piece.

I suppose too my body has changed. Legs boasting the muscle built from a more active year. Stomach softened by the carb-heavy diets of communities abroad and beer-filled nights once back in the States.

Staring at the mirror contemplating this outfit that feels new and slightly off while familiar and so me, I think ‘yep, that’s about right’.

Because this is what returning is like…Coming back to a place that is different than you remembered it- both in the ways its changed and in the ways your memory of it made it something else. Being different than you were when you were last here.

I feel a bit as if I am in a fitting room that is my childhood town. Easing into relationships and tugging at their seams. Turning around to get a 360 view of what things look like. 

It’s all new and slightly off while familiar and so so me.

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The circle game

In a profound circle, I find myself at the final country of this trip, my first last year. For our South Africa orientation, we are staying at the backpackers where my TBB travels began seventeen months ago.

My first photo from last year's trip, taken at my current accommodations
My first photo from last year’s trip, taken at my current accommodations

As I crawled into the bed I first slept in at the onset of my international tour with TBB, a rush of memories flooded my mind. Faces of students who are now dear friends resurfaced. Conversations and views played on a loop, cycling through various joys and adventures of TBB.

I fell asleep laughing with my co-worker and friend, another repeated experience.

This morning, I wrestled with the water heater and then found a flat spot to lay my yoga mat. Every action is simultaneously new and repeated— not in a boring sort of way, but in a centering one.

With this return to the beginning, I am reminded of the thrill and excitement of the start. My eyes are opened once again to the beauty, the wonder, the daily gift of this life abroad.

On the road to the students’ homestays where they’ll settle into later this week, there is a curve just at the top of a hill. As you round it, it reveals a stunning view of the ocean. The water stretches out behind a row of houses, with the sky as expansive just above. Every day as we made this drive last year, Beth would say “take a moment!”. With brimming gratitude and disbelief at our job, lives, and world, we would look out at the view and feel all that we’d been given.

In truth, this same job is now routine; this life, sometimes tiring. Yet this world is still full of wonder; gratitude and awe are still the appropriate responses to the opportunities before me. Long forgotten in the normalcy of my extraordinary, today I took a moment.

Greeting the sun with some salutations, I felt at home. It was a feeling of at home in the universe that Parks speaks of and to which my blog title alludes. I was rooted in a connected orientation to life.  One that Knows gifts when they are given, that takes time to remember and experience wonder anew.

As I moved through the asanas, the sun rose above the clouds shining directly on me. I stood in its light, in my own Light. I circled back with a smile and sensed that my return is not only to South Africa, but also to self.

Leaving Home

My time in the States is beckoning­- demanding, rather- that I make peace with my identity as a traveler. That I face the reality that my sense of home is fluid, my place of origin a landing pad that is more frequently launched from. While a place of comfort and full of community, my most consistent choice is to leave.

The title of my blog- Homeward Bound– is far more relevant than I knew when this journey began. I return often (e.g. here and here) to the illusive question for a nomad, “where’s home for you?”

I am asked this in various forms every day. Friends begin their correspondence with “what country are you in now?”  New acquaintances reach out with the innocent question, “where do you live?” Reunions open with the inevitable, “how long are you here for?”

With every query, I suppress an internal groan. There are surface answers to be sure: the United States; San Diego is where my family, dog, and belongings reside; I’ll spend the week here for now.

Beneath these questions, though, is a set of my own. They center on responsibility, presence, community, and vocation. I face the inverse of that which I grappled with as I prepared to embark on my journey around the world. My former inquiry explored the tensions of my temporary presence in communities worldwide. In a post picked up by Everyday Ambassador, I reflected:

EA quote

In that piece, I looked at the problems with international travel and my (brief) presence in communities abroad.

The untouched story here is my brief and fleeting presence in communities at home.

These tensions are not of accumulation, but abandonment. What does connection look like when a timestamp lingers over every exchange? How do I sustain relationship when my pace and place are fluid and ever-changing?

The trend is clear: since being back Stateside, I spent one to two week stints in DC, Virginia, Pensacola, Southern Utah, Colorado, and the bay before spending the last month in San Diego. On the cusp of a trip to Minnesota, I pause.

And I ask: what must I reorient myself to now?

When my voices of self-doubt and loathing take over, my questions level critique against me for my lack of consistency. I wonder at the cost of the life I’ve chosen. I distrust the ease with which I depart.

Yet, when I lean into the invitation to trust my path, my questions are gentler. Predominately, they are ones seeking to create space for my process, as wayward as it might be. How do I embrace this traveler’s identity as a central part of how I engage in the world? What does it look like to accept the call to keep moving? What exactly am I traveling toward?

This last one leaps off the page and into the core of the why and how of what I do. I travel toward Love. Change. Learning. Growth.

And in these words, I find my center. It is to purpose, then, that I must reorient myself.

With this reminder, I step into a process that, though uncertain, is embedded in my understanding of my life’s work. And I seek a center that can move with me. Furthermore, I wonder if the notion of ‘leaving home’ distances something that is actually inside me from which I can never depart. Perhaps home is synonymous with vocation. It is within, as realizing it is about discovering the call of Deep Self.

From this perspective, my blog title takes on a new meaning. It is not only a nod to where I am heading, but that which I am bound to- who I am. The journey I am on is one not of leaving but of returning, greeting, and birthing this place. Beautifully, this task is also the core of what I support others in doing. In a circle that astounds me, my home is found in helping others create their own.

Sitting at my favorite coffee shop in San Diego with the warmth of the sun upon my back, my roots tug me eastward. I’ll sleep tonight in the bustling suburb that raised me to be the woman I am today. Come next Wednesday, I’ll lay my head elsewhere.

My hope is that in both places- and wherever else I find myself- I’ll learn to be home in my skin and in my heart.