Note: I wrote this in late December right before I moved into my first house!
I remember when I moved back to the DC area in 2011, feeling so unsettled. I felt alone, like I didn’t have a support system. I didn’t have my got-to restaurants. Everything felt so uncomfortable. You would think for someone who moved countries and moved 6 times in past 7 years, that I would be used to moving and living in transition. The only thing I’ve learned is that feeling sad, lonely, unsettled is part of transition, but it does pass; it’s temporary. One day you come home and it feels like home. I used to try to figure out what the ingredients were for this to happen so that I could quicken the process. As I get ready to move again, this time into more permanence, the same fears arise. When will I feel at home again? How will I ever get everything packed and then unpacked? Will my friends still be my friends? Will there be good delivery spots close by?
Back in 2011, my friend suggested that I write gratitude letters to all the places that I had lived as a way to let go and close that door so that I could fully open the one in front of me.
Odes to all the cities I’ve lived or goodbye letters to each. New York. Nashville. Boston. Three cities who gave me one step filled with everything that I needed at the time.
New York. Freedom. This city allowed me independence–from my family. Here I learned that I could dream any dream that I wanted for myself. I learned that I loved the concrete side walks and buildings that grazed my elbows as I walked. I loved the cars honking and buzz of traffic and walkers and bikers meeting in a proper symphony. It is here I built the foundation of me as the adult and teacher. Here I became the foodie I am today. Here I lived with equal love and hate and chose to only remember the love. The first place that I lived as an adult completely independent of my family where I paid my own bills and became the cook I am today.
Dear New York,
You molded my palate into a masterpiece, you allowed me the room to be exactly me without judging. I will forever long to roam your streets alone, to be greeted by your guidance.
Nashville. Serenity. Although I love New York, the bustle of the city caused me to have many a sleepless nights filled with anxiety. I remember nights in New York when I would lay in my bed completely awake from insomnia and frustrated by it, unsure what to do or how to move forward. Nashville was the beginning of my spiritual journey. It wasn’t until Nashville that I could hear the word God and not flinch. I had such a resentful relationship with religion and didn’t know what it all meant. Religion. Spirituality. I remember sharing with a very Christian friend of mine that I find spirituality when I’m on a hike or on top of a mountain or at the beach. It became a joke among us that my religion was nature. What I didn’t know was that was okay and right for me. I found a way to release my old beliefs about religion and God. I found a new definition that worked for me. I started believing in the positive and thinking in the positive. Nashville was a rebirth for me. I saw that I wanted a better relationship with N and chose to get help and support and scariest of all change. I moved from my mid-twenties to my late twenties here–the most significant growth in my life, so far.
You will forever be a fond memory. The people who I found here are the kind a protagonist defines as her great loves. I started my teaching career here and will forever be grateful to the land, the loving people, and food that allowed me to evolve into a true southerner.
Boston. Coast, Seafood, Truth. Living here, newly engaged, teaching down the street from the great Harvard Yard was glamorous in a way that is indescribable. With the coldest of cold winters came the journey of all journeys. Here I learned that I had serious rebellious tendencies when it came to authority. Here I learned that I needed certain structures and boundaries in place to feel successful. Here I learned the most important lesson as an educator: how to build positive relationships with parents of the children whom I teach. Boston allowed me the room to gain weight without judgement. It allowed me to eat all winter long and drink as much beer as I needed. I allowed me to eat as many lobsters, oysters, fish cakes, java chocolate cakes as I needed to make it through the winter. Here I learned that my car can drive on ice and 6 inches of snow and that I could dig out my car from snow in dress shoes.
You are my friend forever. One who allowed me to grow gracefully into my thirties. Your ocean breeze, your fresh salty oysters will forever be my standard for life.
New York, Nashville, Boston. Three Loves. Each a step built with love, hard work, flavor. Each flavor granted me a fuller self, a fuller palate. Now, almost three years after my move from Boston, I still walk on the foundation built in these three cities.
Now it’s time to build that next step!