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.

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The monkey and the owl

While I don’t know this from personal experience, it seems to me that the most difficult part of having children is letting go of them. By this I mean progressively giving them the space they need to develop personal autonomy (a sense of self); or, accepting that you cannot interfere in the natural development process, including when the process gets to questioning (if not rejecting) most everything you ever taught/gave. For any parents of college students who are reading this, I assure you that this is actually a healthy stage of their development.

 

And I should say that my parents handled this swimmingly (my 19 year-old self may not have said the same, as expected per the aforementioned process).

 

It is neat to now be at a place in life that sees myself as distinct from my parents (as opposed to the definition of self/values in opposition to them), while appreciating them in me as well.

 

Which brings me to this post.

 

As some of you know, I am quite infatuated with the notion of spirit animals, and I have long since self-identified as a monkey.

 

While traveling with a class last summer, I shared this fact and my professor protested, saying that I am an owl.

 

The reality is, I am both. My cohort friends tease me when they only see Owl Stacey for too long, insinuating she only belongs in the classroom. Come to think of it, they tease me when Monkey Stacey comes out as well, posturing that they must “brace themselves”.

 

In contrast to life at school, much of my interactions in Rwanda come from a place connected to Monkey Stacey. With the absence of language, abstract thought and reflection are a challenge to get across, where silly voices, ridiculous dancing, and general goofiness transcends culture and our language differences.

 

As I jaunted across the compound, making the kids laugh by shaking my hips, shrugging my shoulders, and bobbing my head to their radio music, it occurred to me how much Monkey Stacey is a mirror image of my father- particularly the Saturday morning variation from my childhood. With this discovery, I realized that Owl Stacey comes from my mother’s critical thinking skills, passion for learning, and diligent work ethic.

 

It made me laugh to think that, for a year, I discussed “the monkey and the owl” with friends but never traced their roots. And to see my parents’ touch on who I am- without my individuality feeling threatened- made me smile.

 

I love you, mom and dad.

Out of the valley

They call Rwanda the land of 1,000 hills.

I am experiencing such healing in these hills. As I walked into the valley towards my sacred space today, I looked at the rolling hills around me and said with such sincerity, “I am so glad that I am here.” And thanked them for their kindness to me.

On a 1:1 recently, a scholar was reflecting on the length of the program and said, “this is just a lot of time to be with yourself.” I agree with her on the latter point: cultural immersion invites- demands even- being with oneself.

As I greet myself, I am understanding the ways that I have been running; I am pulling the curtain back to see my voices of fear. And I am choosing to stop this race that I cannot win and pull out the stakes in the ground that are so deeply rooted I wonder if they are in fact cement.

Every book I have read ths summer has had something to teach me.

My life here is busy, and it is quiet. It can feel lonely, and it can feel crowded. From my transformational leadership coaching work, my heart sings: and it can be both at the same time.

In this paradox, I sit. And from this viewpoint, I listen to all of the things that the books are teaching me. I hear the Soul of the World whisper to me; I let the hills of Nkomangwa embrace me. I pour myself into the task of healing. For me, to be with oneself is to know oneself, which may indeed be to see the face of God.