I’ve lived in 8 different places over the past decade, packed and unpacked my life into cardboard boxes and green trash bags, hired movers, rented U-Hauls, and toted my belongings down the street.
I lived and loved, grieved and wept, created and danced in these places. I was an activist, lover, anarcha-feminist, photographer, writer, vegetarian, and yogi in these places.
I went because I wanted my piece of paper from the university and I stayed because I fell so deeply in love with Baltimore.
This is a love letter to Baltimore as much as it is one to the beach I live now, the girl I was then and the woman I am now.
Obsessed with reflections and dark hair.
I was so young. I look at photos of myself from those first years and I think that girl was so young, so much of a blank slate, with everything in front of her. I see a girl who loved passionately – people, places, causes, beliefs.
I see a girl who tried to figure out what home meant and where it was because it was so many different places so quickly.
Because home has always felt elusive. I used to create photo sets on Flickr to try and figure out what home was, what it meant. I wanted to take one photograph and say Yes, this. This is how home feels.
There was a rowhouse in Baltimore while I finished out school, a tiny studio apartment in Baltimore’s arts district; an apartment with one of my favorite people when I went to grad school.
That studio apartment in a converted mansion along the edge of Baltimore; a crazy one-bedroom back in the arts district; another one-bedroom, this time one with heat. A Craigslist house in northern Virginia.
And where I live now, my tiny house by the beach.
I gathered furniture and skillets and books, then stripped my life down to a bag of clothes and a small box of kitchen accoutrements.
Because sometimes people just lined plush chairs along the street.
The other night I had this dream where I was trying to get home, desperately trying to find a way back home.
There was a train station that I’ve been to before, the Metro with stops along the Orange line, cars and stairs, missed rides and people who said they wouldn’t come pick me up.
I had to find my own way home.
And it scared me.
I didn’t know how to get there.
I’ve done the work, I know that I carry home within myself, I know that I am always home inside of my skin.
But it’s the place, the sanctuary, the safe haven. It’s the roots I’ve been hesitating to put down here, even though I’ve lived here for over two years.
I keep waiting to leave because that’s been my history, that’s been my pattern.
Find a place, get comfortable, strip down, move.
Only instead of a new apartment, I’ve been thinking about houses. I keep thinking that I can’t paint my walls a certain color or rip out the kitchen cabinets and just have shelves because of this thing called reselling. In order to resell your house and have it move quickly, things must be neutral. Your house must be the middle way and if it’s too much of one thing or the other, no no no. You’re SOL, lovie, better luck next time.
When I woke up from that dream from the other night, as I was falling back to sleep, I realized that I haven’t been living here, in my house.
I realized that I have not made the space within these four walls my home.
I haven’t painted any wall that mauve-y rose color I adore. I haven’t hung paintings or photographs up. I haven’t painted my dining room table. I haven’t chucked that ugly ceiling fan and gotten something pretty to put up instead.
And that totally pissed me off, so I went out and bought a chandelier for my bathroom.
The beach, 2013.
Chandeliers in the bathroom because I can.
Because this place, this place is called home. And I’m here, now. My heart is beating, here. My soul is creating, here. My dreams are wild, here.
Not any place else. I am here. And I am here, now.
And things don’t have to happen all at once, it can happen one tiny piece at a time.
It doesn’t have to be a totally renovated bathroom, it can be just a chandelier and taping paint chips to the wall.
It doesn’t have to be a hippie, fairy front yard, it can just be a tiny butterfly bush and a bird bath.
Because there is so much pleasure to be experienced in each small step toward a dream, no matter what the dream is.
So, here’s to small steps, twinkle lights and pale purply-gray paint. Here’s to honoring the vision and giving it space to grow with breaths rather than huge exhalations. Here’s to rolling stripes of color on the wall to see what feels amazing. Here’s to being ok with not having it all at once.
With paint-splattered hands and a head full of dreams,