Eight years ago, I started collecting small moments. At first, I recorded them on a misshapen heart map in the back corner of my writer's notebook. Then, I started jotting them down on sticky notes until my moments filled mason jars. Now, I take note of these little pockets of time in a beautifully bound journal that my mom bought for me right before I left for my bridge year. I picked up the habit from my fourth-grade writing class and have kept it up ever since.
My repertoire is quite expansive now and encompasses way too many moments to count. I remember reciting Mary Oliver poems at the beginning of circle time in fourth and fifth grade. I remember indulging in endless cucumbers and carrots after a long first day on the Appalachian Trail during my first backpacking trip. I remember mastering the cup song with my sister at a campsite picnic table during our bike tour down the east coast. While these times are seemingly mundane to the outside eye, they are moments that have made me.
This summer, part of me was reluctant to face the idea of leaving the people and places that I love. During July, the thought of doing so scared me sleepless. As such, I spent 65 scattered days stockpiling small moments. Sailing on the Wind Dancer with Grandpa and letting the Henderson Harbor waves rock me to sleep. Running errands and exchanging book recommendations with my Grandma. Cooking apple crisp with Del at 11 PM while singing Maggie Rogers songs in the kitchen. Road trips filled with hours of fulfilling conversation with my mom and intellectual tailgating with my dad. Friendship ceremonies, late-night cruising, and catching up with friends before we set off on adventures in opposite directions.
I have started to accumulate moments in Ecuador, too. My journal contains a growing list. When I consider the highlights of my past 18 days here, I think of Taylor Swift on repeat while rooming with Amelia. I think of the little rainbow that emerged over the mountains after a Sunday afternoon fútbol game in Santa Ana. I think of sprinting up the street to catch the bus and chasing cows with all my strength through tall, grassy fields with my host mom. I think of being serenaded by a spirited man with a string instrument while out for lunch with friends on my birthday. I think of enjoying pan y café con leche at the wooden table outside of the restaurant and the warmth it provides me every evening. And I think of getting off the bus, walking five minutes to the school that I will be working at, taking a deep breath at the gate, and stepping inside this morning for the first time.
What's weird is how interconnected my moments here are with my moments from home. I cannot wash dishes in the restaurant sink without thinking about how vigorously my sister scrubs the dishes back home. I relished the sweet familiarity of Fleetwood Mac's Dreams when it briefly came on the radio during yogurt-making in Maclovia's shop. I think of the meadows of cows in Sussex County when trailing cows in a valley nearly 3,000 miles away from there. After an exhausting Friday afternoon with the cows, Maclovia and I laid down in the grass. As I stared into the vast, expansive sky with the same color and fluffy clouds as at home, I thought once again: just how did I get here? And how does it feel so foreign, yet so familiar?
I think I'm starting to realize the intersections between who I am and who I am gradually becoming. My compilation of small moments– and the people and places that made them– are what have molded me thus far. They are part of who I am now, and in this I find comfort. However, I also find solace in the fact that where I am from is not permanently fixed. Instead, it is malleable and open to new ideas, relationships, and cultures. With a constantly evolving definition, formed and influenced by the people I come in contact with and experiences that I have, there is so much room for growth in every aspect of my life. The potential for new roots excites me, and as more small moments arrive and my acquisition of them builds, I look forward to more collection and reflection.
And in a short nine months and many small moments later, as I struggle to say goodbye to the community and home that I learned to draw meaning and connection from, I plan to be ready to embrace a new and expanded idea of where I am from.