Over the past few months, I’ve been having my students write papers about love. In doing so, it made me both read and reflect on my own experiences with love and growing up– especially in my early twenties. This is where that led me.
A letter to my wayward self.
My dear girl,
I have no idea where you are running to, but I promise you none of the directions you are heading towards are “home.”
I know: you are horrible at the long game. There is no patience in your bloodstream, no chill hidden anywhere in your bones. You are all chicken skin and red hot veins. Your muscles are overrun with fast-twitch fibers. You go far beyond “starry-eyed”— your pupils dilate again and again as your mind wanders in explosive bursts with fury, unprepared for what happens in the moments after when the star has burned out and things are dark again.
You are spontaneous decisions and seeking the next high. Yours is a rabbit-heart that beats furiously, always asking questions: when? who? why how what where where where where? always searching. You race—no, bounce and sometimes tumble— down trails, so assured that the next turn will lead you to find home. You are certain that this rock or that tree is a sign, that the next moment will finally find the thing you want most: an anchor, a resting place, a haven that just might soothe the pitter-patter that runs from your heart, through your veins and into every other part of you.
The problem is, “home” is a vague X on a map without a key. There is no description or clue as to what it is. So you keep thinking you’ve found it: in the hands of one boy, in the furtive glances of a different man, the fervor of a blurred dance floor, the bottom of an empty wine glass. You hop from all these things, assured that each sip or kiss or beat is a sign that you are almost where you need to be.
It’s a confusing concept, but I promise you none of these things are where “home” is. Don’t confuse the feeling you get when you catch his eyes meeting yours with the experience of being appreciated fully in the gaze of someone who loves you. Don’t mistake a flurry of kisses for a downpour of actual caring. Don’t assume the pain-numbing warmth at the end of a long sip is the same as the soothing release of healing when you actually take care of yourself.
“Home” is not found in the temporary bliss of mind-numbingly good kisses. Don’t get me wrong— you can still have mind-numbingly good kisses, but they are merely decoration on the outside. “Home” is built by weathered boards that have been worked on and sanded. They are stained with difficult decisions and tears. Their nails are the choices you make, hammered in with mutual respect. They are painted with the laughter of jokes built over years of shared comfort. Home will wrap you in its arms when you walk into it looking like something the cat dragged in. Home will stay standing when you tear the furniture apart in rage. Home will still protect you when you can do nothing but sit there in silence.
I wish I could tell you things turn out okay.
The problem is, it’s hard to know when you have found a forever-home. Sometimes we outgrow a place, decide we need to do what’s best, move on. Or we realize the foundation isn’t solid. Or we take a job in Hawai‘i and move thousands of miles away.
Here’s the thing you will need to learn: home can never be some summit that you have to venture to. Home should never be a place that can only be entered when terms and conditions apply. Home can never truly be yours if it only exists within the happiness of another’s.
The only place you will truly find it is when you stop, close your eyes, and breathe. You will feel the ground beneath your feet, the beat of your heart in your own ears, the muscles behind your eyes relax. Then, you will realize that home was never some external site to begin with. You will realize the only real home is the quiet, still place where you both know and love yourself, exactly as you are.
And in that moment, you will finally be found.