This is one of those years of tiny, big moments. It's the year where two years of labour and questioning evolved at last into one moment of standing on stage and receiving my Master's degree. All I heard in that moment was the fierce beating of my heart, pounding ecstatically against my ribs: I've no idea what was actually said. (Though that might be also the result of two years of school-related sleep deprivation...)
This is a year that will quietly watch me slip into the next age marker and I find myself reflecting often on who I am now and how I want to grow myself for the next five years. I look at pictures of a five year old me, an eleven year old me, and I wonder who that I was then is still now, and what of who I am now would I have wanted to be at that age if I could only have known to want it. Which makes me wonder how I will look back on this age, and on this age I am slipping into.
Today is the anniversary of when my family left my first home, my beautiful island in the Caribbean, so I am extra pensive and lost to nostalgia, to thinking about home and place and belonging.
When I ride in the cabs and talk with drivers who are from Ethiopia, Uganda, and elsewhere, they reminisce to me of home, spell out for me the language of land written on their hearts, and I see the place stamped on their being. Then I ask how long they have been in the States now, and each time--each and every time!--it is longer than I have lived here in this country. And they have been gone from their homes that long (longer yet if they were refugees at some point), and yet it is to them still the compass which guides them through their life.
I think, if they can have their homeland still affect them so, is it so strange that my own heart is often still awash in longing for the otherness I know? For my other worlds? Even though in every place I go, that longing persists because I have lived and loved in too many?
What is the limit of the human heart?
I have become very adept at making home wherever I am, at building place and setting down roots whilst still carrying with me the places and people I love, while still holding onto the many different and opposing things that have made me the strange person who I am--and I am enormously proud of this accomplishment. I think, in a life full of fracture, finding a way to some sort of wholeness is a pretty satisfying thing to accomplish, and probably explains why I have cared so much more in my life about who I am as a person than what I am doing or going to do. Being a person is a lot of hard work, and I cherish my beingness.
But what now? And how now?
Maybe that will be the next five years of learning for me.
I returned not half a month ago yet from a trip to Iceland. What a beautiful country. I don't even have the vocabulary yet to adequately talk about it, though I have begun to read Icelandic literature in hopes of discovering and growing that ability.
Going there, I hoped most to be able to step outside myself a little, to step into a place I do not know at all, have never been. To bathe in the strange newness of it all and so, being outside of my world, gain rest and better my vision. I wanted to celebrate what I have achieved (the degree) and reward myself. Wanted to dance with the Northern Lights and experience their magic for the first time, to ride on the back of the wind. I wanted so badly to find something that looks like the edge of the world and stand trembling on the brink of it full of wonder at life and the stark beauty of it all, raging and silent in a single breath, luminescent as the glaciers and black as the sand, rock, and night encompassing it all.
And the thing that I love most about experiences like that; it isn't the going there and then , eventually, turning back and returning to the place you were before. It's that you don't return to the place you were before.
I will always, forever, be homesick for something. My heart beats the song of saudade; an eternal song of melancholic loss for the other.
But that doesn't mean that I do not nor cannot love the new, the next, or the present. And I do, enormously and passionately.
But when you go enter a neverland or stand at the edge of any world, there is always a door. Though I did turn and drive back the way I had come, though the next day I got on a plane and flew back to my present home which I adore, that next portal has been crossed and I passed into a new place, a new world to explore which will become a part of the fabric of my being. I didn't even fully realise it then, but now, when I find myself reading new books since my return, writing new things and thinking in language I have not before, I know.
Know that for the first time, I have come to love and appreciate change as much as I have always hated and feared it. Many of us carry wounds and split hearts and live in between worlds with that continual ache for the otherness of home, but as T.S. Elliot said, "the end of all our explorations will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." Which in the end, means that the place and we ourselves are as new; reborn and more full.
Isn't the evolution of our being a wondrous thing?