Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Latitudes and Other Strong Metaphors

A year ago, I was south. I was in SoCal, soaking up some sunshine with a few of my dearest loves.

Okay, that's absolutely true, but more accurately I was paralyzed and drowning in those anxiety tidal waves. But whatever.

A year ago tonight, I fell asleep in a bed and tried not to think about the fact that I wasn't going to have a bed the next day. Or the next. Or the next. Or the next...

"Wait, so...were you homeless by choice?"

I never know how to answer this question. It's a valid question, I suppose, and one that people seem compelled to ask me for whatever reason. I mean, it makes sense, or rather it doesn't; what is this privileged middle-class woman doing, living in her car that she can't afford to fill with gas, in a strange town where she knows absolutely nobody? Why doesn't she just go home? 

Truth being told, I didn't think that I could go home. And according to the aforementioned empty fuel tank, I was correct in that assumption. I figured that I had made it all the way to the west coast, and even though the midwest coast is the best coast, I was out of resources and completely stuck. In a sense, my situation was a result of choices that I had made; I was there for a job that I had pursued and that had been promised to me. I was there holding up my end of a bargain that turned out to be less of a bargain and more of a dangerous, unsustainable game. But nevertheless, if I had the resources to rent a room, I would have. Although I had always wondered what it would be like to live out of my car, it was a hundred degrees outside. A hundred degrees with no privacy. Nobody chooses that. Nobody.

But I'm not here to talk about the past. Most of you know the rest of this story and how it's full of miracles and tears and growth, and probably all of you know how much I like to reflect, but that I reflect for a reason. And at the minute, the reason is this: I wanted to tell you that today, I am north.

Turns out, a lot of stuff can happen in a year, especially when you're 25. I turned 25 on my terms, which is a sentiment that is so important to me; I turned 25 by some miracle, I thought, and charged myself with the task to turn 26 someday. It's a little early, but I'm just shy of that goal and I think that I'll make it. And it's monumental, considering.

During the weeks surrounding my 25th birthday, I began setting some goals and working toward them. I wanted to be back in school, but I wasn't convinced that I was far enough along in my recovery to go. To be honest, I'm still not convinced that the butterflies or the fear of failure or the impostor syndrome, or even the PTSD, ever go away; but these are things of which to have a healthy awareness and they can be managed. For everything else, though, I needed help. I wasn't sure what more I could do, but I knew that it involved more doctors than the ones I had visited before. 

So, I visited them and moved forward. Even in my uncertainty, I filled out applications for school and wrote passionate, albeit verbose, personal statements and requested recommendation letters. I ordered my transcripts and revisited old physics problems and filled my time with all of the good things on this Earth, and one of the worst: waiting.

I traveled while I waited, and I waited while I worked. And eventually, the Earth turned and the Sun rose and there was a new opportunity. I took it.

Right now, after smoothing over months of immigration and logistical kerfuffles, I live in one of the most magical cities on this planet. I took a risk and modified my academic career and fell backwards, trusting I'd be caught, into Iceland.

I've been caught. In fact, I'm all caught up.

Tonight, underneath the strongest northern lights I've ever seen, I thought about where I have been and where I am now. Back then, I had fallen asleep afraid, but not anymore. Tonight, I'll snuggle deep into my covers and hold myself there, letting my body rest, happy and secure and ready. Terrified to be back in school, yes, but excited and ready. Doe-eyed in the face of a new city and a new country, but safe. Safe in a city that lights its own way in the darkness.

And that light, like a curtain fluttering in the ionic wind, sends powerful remedies to all of my residual insecurities; undulating down like everything good, and wonderful, and sagely. The power behind these particle storms is extraordinary, but the reason we see them at all is a testament to Earth's perfect ability to protect us from too much of a good thing. It's a gift; it's always a gift. Every time.

So here I am, a year later, as far north as I've ever been. Falling in love with Reykjavík, falling deeper in love with the northern lights, falling in love with my life's chaos and beauty and direction, finally direction. Falling in love with my north.

I'm telling you; wherever is your north, go there.

Y'all know that I don't have a fancy camera. Image source: