Three months in a new home

Three months in a new home

 

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No Service read across the top of my phone screen. I looked up to see speckles of sunlight peer through the leaves. A chorus of cicadas echoed, and a subtle, unassuming creek flowed in the background. The soft, humid air enveloped me, and each breath was matched with sweet, fresh relief. The stillness was intoxicating.

It has been three months since I landed in Washington, D.C. Three months of wrestling with my anxieties; of swallowing my insecurities and tripping every other time I try to put my best foot forward. Three months of continuously seeking the courage to show up, say yes, and make vulnerability my greatest ally. Three months ago I was surrounded by cardboard boxes in a foreign city with a job I felt deeply unqualified for, feeling profoundly, terrifyingly alone. Three months ago I sought solace in isolation – running from the fear, the anxiety, and the loneliness, only to realize I had nowhere to go. Three months ago, I wanted to be anywhere but here.

The sun set over the horizon, and stars gazed through the canopy of leaves. I craned my neck, hoping to meet their gaze. The night sky came into focus, and I felt incredibly small. The burden of the last ten weeks loosened its grip. I paused, neck still craning toward the sky, and noticed the newfound empty space within me. I was fulfilled.

Today, this city still feels big and overwhelming, but it also feels like home. The Potomac no longer mocks me, reminding me of the 600 miles between myself and my family. I am finding confidence in my work – challenging myself without the incentive of a grade or professor’s praise. I am building a community and finding solace not in isolation, but in shared experiences; in those moments where you look someone in the eye and say “You too?! I thought I was the only one.” What was once a strange and foreign city has not only become home – it has become my home.

The creek whispered in the background, and the sky was showing the first signs of daylight. The air felt thick with dew, and I turned onto my back, silently marveling at the stillness. I looked to my right and couldn’t help but smile. My soul swelled with satisfaction.

Planting my life in new soil has been tricky. Initial stubbornness led to reluctance, reluctance to surrender, and surrender to realizing my own self-forced starvation. Out of desperation, I finally allowed just one drop of this foreign soil’s nutrients to be absorbed into my decaying roots. My roots dug a little deeper, and desperation became acceptance. Life reclaimed its vibrancy. My leaves stopped craning toward the Indiana sunlight. Washington D.C. is bright enough for me.

I stepped out of the tent and inhaled the damp morning air. I waited for the familiar sound of a plane overhead or a siren down the road; instead I was greeted with the unfamiliar sound of silence. Time slowed to a soothing clip, and each movement developed a sense of purpose. I stood, motionless, watching this small corner of the world come to life. The present became enough.

 

A few weeks ago, I went camping. As in legitimate, pee-in-the-woods, sleep-in-a-tent, look-out-for-bears camping. I managed to forage all of the necessary gear from some friends (thank you, friends), and stumbled out of the city and into the wilderness. You could say my camping history is spotty at best – the last time I went camping we had showers, air mattresses, and parent chaperones grilling burgers every night. I was not a fan of camping back then – in fact I swore against it. Never again would I sleep on the ground in a tent in the woods. And yet, there I was. On the ground, in a tent, in the woods. And I loved every minute of it.

It’s funny how things change.

I remain the same Samantha, and yet my perspective is constantly shifting. I recently spent some time back home, in Indiana. During my stay, I found myself yearning for D.C. – for what has become my home. This was confusing. My Midwestern soil, while still providing the irreplaceable nourishment of family and familiarity, became stagnant. I was no longer comfortable there – or, perhaps, I was too comfortable. I thrive at the balance of security and uncertainty – finding the space where I feel grounded enough to act courageously. In the last three months I’ve realized that too much comfort makes me uncomfortable. Indiana is safe, but it is also easy. The path was paved for me and the concept of home is wrapped around memories beginning with others’ actions, decisions, and theories. While this foundation of love, family, and support has been pivotal to my development as a young woman, it is also why my roots now crave this foreign soil. Because it is here that I have the opportunity to make what was foreign, familiar. For the first time I get to craft home from scratch. I define its boundaries and routines. I welcome its guests. I choose what to surround myself with and with whom to share experiences and build memories. As I open myself up to the relationships, and opportunities my new home has to offer, I feel my roots dig deeper and deeper, building this home into a mosaic of challenge and opportunity, of comfort and adventure.

I rested my heavy head into my hand, dirt lingering under my fingernails. The soft hum of the radio filled the air-conditioned car. In the empty space between sleep and consciousness, I felt myself smile. I opened my eyes, and a wave of contentment flowed through me. I made eye contact with the only other person awake in the car and laughed. “What’s so funny?” He asked. “Nothing,” I replied, returning my head to my hand, resuming my semi-conscious slumber.

I get to create my own home. I get to change and yet remain the same. I get to laugh in the silence, because sometimes smiling just isn’t enough.

 

 

Taking Root

Taking Root

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There’s this tree on Roosevelt Island. Or at least there was. Toppled onto its side, roots and limbs exposed, trunk decaying – uprooted. I ran by this tree nearly every day during my first month here. Sometimes I wouldn’t notice it, other times I would stop and stare. At one point I stopped and took a picture of it, artfully crafting some Instagram caption detailing how I am this tree – I have been toppled onto my side, vulnerability and fears exposed, decaying – I am uprooted. But I never posted it. I continued on with my run, and my day, and my week, eventually forgetting about this tree. Eventually forgetting about my exposed limbs and vulnerability, my insecurity and uncertainty. I stopped trying so hard to take root here – to continuously dig into this foreign soil and force this raw and exposed version of myself into it. I set down the shovel and walked away.

 

It’s been weeks since I took that photo, and something has clicked. I’ve fallen in love with my job; I’m finally sleeping through the night; and I’ve connected with some fantastic people. I wake up, look out my window, and smile. I no longer feel like I’m just surviving, but I’m yearning to thrive. I’m yearning to take on the challenging assignments, to go to the Senate hearing without being asked, to talk to the stranger on the group run, to prioritize my health. Virginia and DC no longer feel like a strange, foreign land. It feels like home. I think I’ve taken root – A tiny, wisp of a root is settling into the soil here.

I’m reminded of freshman year of college, when I was unsure of what to call “home” – my dorm or my parent’s home. And while Indiana will always have my heart, I think, for right now, I’m home. Northern Virginia and Washington D.C. is home. I feel safe. I feel welcomed. The more I discover here the more I realize that I belong. I have learned that home is not bound by geographic lines or where you were raised or even how often you get lost trying to find Target, it’s the people. It’s the experience. I may be miles from my family and the only city I’ve ever known, but something tells me I’m home. Perhaps it’s the community I’m forming – finding a friend I can confide in and look up to, even if it’s on a 6 a.m. run; finding the courage to start a conversation with someone in the trailhead parking lot; finding solace and inspiration in work and my colleagues. I’m finding my people. There’s something to be said for having a community. For seeing familiar faces, faces you know you can trust. If I’ve learned anything the last seven weeks, it’s the importance of community. The people you surround yourself with – the roots with which you share the soil – that’s home.


Some photos from the last month of adventures, featuring the Shenandoah:

 

 

 

Listen to everyone. Follow no one.

Listen to everyone. Follow no one.

Habits are weird. They come and go; some last years, others a few days; some you hate, others you wish you had. I’m a sucker for habits – I get really excited about some daily task or lifestyle and do it for about three days, then I forget one time and it’s all over. I like to call these stints of certain behaviors my “flashes of brilliance” or moments where I think because some professional athlete or mentor or idol does something, then I should do it, too. Right now. Start this brilliant habit that will make me that much smarter or faster or healthier or friendlier or happier. But they never actually stick, and that flash of brilliance quickly dims to the subtle glimmer of yesterday’s obsession, and I’m back to my old ways. The ways that for some reason I rarely think are good enough, the ways that surely won’t get me to that next step, better grade, faster run. Habits have forced me to lose trust in the one thing that I can never get rid of, myself.

When you lose trust in yourself you lose your ability to see, think and live clearly. You begin to mindlessly perform tasks and foster habits that others deem “necessary,” and you’re left empty. You lose your ability to think for yourself, to listen to your inner voice telling you no, this doesn’t work for you. Stop.

I’m finally stopping.

“Listen to everyone; follow no one.” That is what I’ve come here to do. It’s time to break some “necessary” habits and begin experimenting. It’s time to do what feels right, to take the knowledge I have garnered from following so many other habits and form the best habits for me. Habits I can follow. Habits that won’t dim but will continue to shine with such brilliance that eventually, it will become a habit others emulate as well.

It’s time to break some habits. And experiment with some new ones. While I’m at it, I’ll post them here for all to see, then, in theory, I’ll hold myself accountable to follow them for more than 72 hours, right? Right.

Samantha’s greatest Flashes of Brilliance that she came up with all on her own and therefore cannot and will not dim (at least until Friday): 

Write a blog post everyday. Or at least post something, a philosophical essay, a picture of a bunny, mile by mile details of my run. Something.

Stretch after every run (and ride). After eight (or is it nine?) stress fractures, you’d think I already have this one down, but for some reason I think I’m just far too busy for such tedious activities as stretching, but 15 minutes of rolling around on the ground while scrolling twitter is better than three months of staring at my running shoes longingly.

Eat more dark chocolate. (As if that will be hard).

Get over the fact that I have as many supplements as an elderly woman and take my calcium, but not at the same time as my iron – then it’s as if I didn’t take anything. Again, eight stress fractures and you’d think I’d have this covered. It’s a work in progress.

Smile and take a deep breath three times a day, each. In other words, set aside six total seconds of sheer, uninterrupted happiness per day.

Okay, here goes. Time to eat some chocolate.