“When you do what you love…

“When you do what you love you love yourself, and the more you do it the more you will become the person you want to be.”

– Lauren Hunt

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What Home Feels Like

Home is never about a place. Home is always people.

Whether you call home a city, a back road, a house or a coffee shop, your bedroom or a seat next to the fireplace, it is not the place that defines it—it’s the way you feel when you’re in that place. It’s the place in the world where you feel secure, where you are closest to the person you want yourself to be.

For some that means going back to the place you grew up. Every building in the town could have been rebuilt from the ground up, or the shop windows might still have the same items that were on display when you were 16. It’s not the buildings and it’s not the geography that comforts you, it’s nostalgia. It’s trying to return somewhere, to a past time and place, when life was simpler and the world was wide open, when your sense of self was strongest and the truth had not left you jaded with doubt.

For some that means getting as far away from where you started and who you once were. The high school that made you feel like you would never know what it was to belong, the parents that dismissed your dreams and never appreciated your accomplishments, or maybe just the painful memory of someone you lost, someone who hurt you, or a younger self you abandoned and buried there. It’s not about where you were, it’s about who you were and how far you’ve come to escape the way that you were, the way that you felt, the way that you lived. And sometimes moving on and distancing yourself from that version of yourself and those feelings needs physical distance between you, too.

Home might be your new life; your job, hobbies, your favorite bar, your friends or the new family you created for yourself, or the new self you created in pursuing and realizing your dreams. Home might be the road; the constant pursuit of new places, cultures, philosophies and people. Home might be the city; any city, any concrete jungle where man builds stairs towards the sky and chases tirelessly after progress and innovation. Home might be a cottage on a plot of land that rolls out of sight, where nature is pure, neighbors are further away and more familiar, and days start early and pass simply. Home might be the little brick house in a line of identical brick house that is somehow completely unique and all your own. Home might be a bench beside the river where you watch the sunrise or the corner of the couch where you gather around the television every Tuesday night.

We take comfort in physical places because of the memories that happened, or the people there, or the way we feel around them. But bricks crumble, wood rots, metal rusts and paint peels. The structures, the decorations, and the places are arbitrary and interchangeable. They hold no value, no safety. In a gesture purely human, we assign a second meaning to them and they become symbols of fondness, of pride, of peace. You don’t love that coffee shop because of the table in the corner, you love the table in the corner because that’s where you escaped to cram before exams and procrastinated on papers while you eyed the barista. You don’t love a city because of the narrow streets or the neon lights, you love the way everything seems alive and awake, or maybe the feeling of anonymity that amidst thousands of people you can reinvent yourself any day, or everyday.

You don’t love a farm because the crops grow differently there than anywhere else, you love the ironic way that its isolation brings you closer to nature and to people, cutting out the distractions and chaos that keep you from watching a summer thunderstorm or having a meaningful conversation. Your suburb is no different than the dozens around it, but theirs don’t have the field you played soccer games on or the creek you drank by the first time you snuck out and stole your parents beer. Your childhood room is still covered in posters from the summer you embraced your teenage angst and went to warped tour. The ceiling is splattered with taupe from the painting party your roommates had the night you moved into your first apartment and into adulthood. The wheel of the suitcase you live out of is still broken from the time you were still drunk getting on the train because it was time to go but you wanted just one more night with that group of Australians you met in Paris.  The swing set in your backyard was the first thing your husband ever built, but it was finished just a week after you told him he’d be a father.

We don’t take the time to recognize this, but we should. When we do we realize that home was never a place at all, but a structure of safety and a state of mind where we are happiest with and most accepting of ourselves. It’s where we find the people that matter the most to us, and the people we still strive to be more like.  To realize that home is a collection of memories and emotions that keep us grounded and remind us what is most important to us is infinitely comforting, because it can never be taken away from us. Close your eyes. Find the place where you feel safe, where you are happy, where you are unintentionally yourself. Remember the smells and the way the air feels on your skin. Recall the sounds so familiar you’d forgotten to notice them. Go to the place where you can relax, the place that can conjure itself in your mind without effort or flaw.

People move away, neighborhoods change, and buildings fall. Your job might relocate, your kids might leave for college, your favorite bookstore might close and the seeds you plant might not grow. Close your eyes. Remember your fondest self. Remember when you felt most connected to and loved by the people in your life. Remember the pride you’ve had in yourself and the success you’ve enjoyed. Remember where and when at the end of the day your thoughts were happy and your heart was grateful without reminding them to be. Close your eyes. It’s not the town or the house or anything at all that can be touched or grasped.

Home is your people. Home is your memories. Home is your happiness, your dreams, and your sense of self.

Close your eyes and remember that your home is always within yourself, and that you are always at home.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE

jen miller

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Children of the Sun

Today is the first real, true day of spring.

You could probably even call it summer. Yesterday was warm too, but it was overcast and smelled like rain. When you stepped outside today you could instantly feel your skin warm from the sun, even from the shade. By 5am the birds were chirping incessantly. Before you even got outside the warm breeze rushed in through the windows, smelling of flower buds and life. It’s no coincidence—that childlike excitement everyone shows at the first signs of warm weather.

What was more exciting as a child than the days getting longer and sun getting hotter and the trees getting fuller all around you? It was better than Christmas, because you knew it would last longer. It wasn’t the promise of a day of surprises, it was a season of them. School was closing and the pools and waterparks were opening. Kids started filling the streets faster than buds blooming on the trees, eager to try out the bikes and scooters and balls and Frisbees they got months ago but couldn’t fully enjoy yet. And they weren’t the only ones. Suddenly the ground was crawling with caterpillars and worms and funny-shaped beetles and the air was alive with butterflies and dragonflies and bees and floating helicopter leaves. The wind whistled in the trees and carried the tune of crickets and cicadas the hungry chirps of baby birds.

You could feel the sun lingering, as reluctant as the children to retreat into the darkness when their parents finally called them.  Every day was an adventure; uncharted, unplanned, and waiting to be discovered. Honeysuckles to pick, rocks to turn over, trees to climb, games to invent, stories to share, swings to leap off, hopscotch to be drawn, ice cream trucks to flag down, races to win, Marcos and Polos, watercolors to paint, picnics to eat, vacation towns to explore. The possibilities were limitless, and the only thing stopping you from doing exactly what you wanted was losing the majority vote to the other neighborhood kids. Even then the choice was still yours; play with your friends or spend a day exploring on your own. Despite this time in our lives when so many of our decisions are made for us, there is no greater freedom than a child in summertime. No responsibilities weighing on your mind, no guilt about working out or volunteering or cleaning. Your only debt the wet willy you owed your brother, nothing more distant than the ice cream man to save your coins for, your only aches and pains the bruises on your shins from climbing the uneven bark of a tree. No worries about the world settling on your shoulders, no feuds beyond repair, no pressures from school or work or the future tightening your chest. When you took a breath, your lungs filled fully. Each day was lived in true freedom, appreciating every creature and smell and sound and idea you found in your path.

Now when the weather gets nice I can hear the grumblings of our inner children clawing to the surface. It’s no longer our parents that keep them inside, but our adult selves. “We shouldn’t have class when it’s this nice.” “I hate being stuck in the office when it’s this warm out.”  “I just want to sit outside and enjoy this weather!”   But it’s not just the weather we want to enjoy. The heat on our skin and the shine in our eyes is only part of the magic of this time of year. We don’t merely want to be out in the sun; we want to be children in the sun. We want to leap from rock to rock without looking, dive into creeks, shed our watches and live by lunch time and dinner time, shed our responsibilities and chase our desires, shed our worries and chase our dreams. The sweet and sorrowful nostalgia we feel when the temperature rises is our old friend in the sky, lingering, drawing us out and begging us to return to our childlike state of wonder and discovery and carelessness and joy. Freedom.