*with photos from a day I felt really at home walking around the city
I called my friend up the other day. We have known each other since we were in middle school, awkward gangly kids with braces and bangs and ambitions based off of High School Musical’s plot line. We grew up in the same streets of the suburbs of Vegas. Hot asphalt in the summer that you can literally fry an egg on and parks with always clean-cut grass that would prick my skin when I rolled around in it. PTA moms, nothing to do during the day, and the same Starbucks before school and Chipotle after.
We talked about the weather in both of our locations. We talked about our head space in both of our locations. I felt that part of my life come back to me like a wispy dream that maybe didn’t really happen. He told me where he was walking through the phone receiver and I pictured it because I had walked the same path and driven the same roads so many times. Ran the same concrete loops over and over and sang songs in the confines of my only-friend-who-could-drive-at-the-time’s car. Songs I haven’t listened to in years and would never put on a playlist right now. That person truly feels like a different person. She had a different life, different thoughts and different ambitions. And when I try to tap into who she was it’s like talking to an estranged relative that you know you have a lot in common with but have nothing to talk about besides memories.
But, I really seemed to belong and do my best while I was there. I had my favorite spots and found things to do- volleyball after dark once the heat waned away. Sneaking into the rec center to jump off the high dive. I had really good friends that were down for adventures and held me up and wanted the best for me… and I was… happy.
I started describing my current scene to him. Leaves changing colors, walking by Tompkins square park with skaters on the basketball court and a hot coffee in my hand. I was about to get on the metro and head back to my apartment where three of my current best friends live who will never know the girl who grew up in the scorching sidewalk suburbs. Suddenly felt out-of-body like this wasn’t really my life. I said into the receiver, “I don’t know where I truly belong.”
He replied, “I think you are the type of person that can belong anywhere. I think most people are.”
After I hung up and dipped into my apartment I felt at home. But I have felt this feeling in places beside this one. It has less to do with my latitude and longitude than it does the people I am around and the state of mind I am currently in. If I am with people who don’t truly accept me, I could be anywhere in the world and not feel like I belong. When I am with people who see the good and bad parts of me and give me nothing but unconditional love… I am home.
And more importantly, when I am present with my current situation I feel the strongest sense of belonging. On days where I feel nostalgic about the past or anxious about the future, the city looks different. The subway feels hot and sweaty and burdensome. The people on the sidewalks all look like obstacles I have to deal with, and everything radiates negative energy. The streets to the buildings to the faces all shout out me to leave, get out of here, and go somewhere else.
When I wake up and feel grateful about my current situation, my eyes work differently. The subway is an adventure and everything goes to the beat of the music in my headphones. Everyone that passes by me seems full of experiences and stories that I will never know, and they glow from the inside. I notice flowers and murals and small writing on benches or chalk on the sidewalk. The details pop out and I feel surrounded by love.
My inner world tends to match my outer one.
When I feel safe, when I feel like I belong within my own skin, I do.