A word we all long for, a feeling we all seek to create, a place where a mind can settle and a heart can breathe a sigh of relief. Over the course of our lives we discover many, each with a distinct taste or flooding memory that forever holds a part of us there.
In my mind, the word “home” is associated with rural North Carolina, where I grew up a pasture away from every member of my family and woke up each morning to liquid sunlight making patterns on the wall through lace curtains. It comes with the dreamlike memory of Merida, Mexico, where I spent every other summer of my childhood in a house with shiny white floors, where my dreams would miraculously switch to Spanish, where I was swayed to sleep by a woven hammock each night. I feel home here in Lexington, Virginia, tucked into a valley by dancing mountains that fall asleep each night under a sky painted pink and gold by streaks of the meandering sunset. Home is my dogs barking joyously and my dad playing guitar and the warm, smile-like feeling of family dinners at my Mimi’s house.
Some homes I’ve lost contact with, and some are still a part of my life. However, all provide that warm feeling of contentedness that rises from my toes through the tips of my fingers at the thought of returning. I have found many homes already. All make me inexplicably happy in different ways. Content. Stable.
So why leave them behind in search of a new one?
“Home” and “Senegal” are two completely different categories in my mind. Home is comfort, home is stability, home is a place I know I belong. Senegal is a country thousands and thousands of miles away from any home I have ever claimed. It is a country shrouded in expectations and stereotypes I have created in my head that are sure to be proven wrong, a country with a mysterious and beautiful culture I am yet to experience, a country that I know has extremely sweet green tea and a custom of hospitality called teranga. A country where I know I will make an absolute fool out of myself many times (I do that enough when I speak a language I know- I can’t imagine what it will be like in Wolof or Seerer).
A country that will be my… home. For the next eight months.
To say that I am going into this experience head-on and without fear or reservations would be a complete and utter lie. This is my first blog. I’m not allowed to lie to you yet. If I’m being honest, fear is one of the reasons I decided to take this bridge year. The fear of getting too comfortable in my homes, the fear of feeling stuck, the fear of never pushing myself to go out of my comfort zone. So to prevent those fears, naturally, I chose to do the scariest thing I have ever done in my entire life.
But the beautiful thing is, I’m learning to find a home in this newfound form of fear. The bonds I have already formed with fellows both in and out of my cohort and the amazing, unique, and absolutely astonishing experiences and personalities each one of them brings make me confident that I have made the right choice.
So I’m not leaving my home behind. I’m simply going in search of a new one.
That’s the dream, isn’t it? To seek out new homes, new connections, new experiences, new perspectives and ways to learn. It is the people we meet and the homes we are lucky enough to be a part of that make this life meaningful. We are all humans, above all else. We provide unexpected homes for others as they provide for us.
This year will challenge me in ways I have never expected and change me in ways I probably can’t fathom. I am unbelievably excited and unquenchably curious and unequivocally nervous and, all literary devices aside, just scared out of my mind. I’m gonna miss my parents. And my dogs. And my grandma. And her banana pudding. I’m just gonna miss the homes I call mine now. The fact that I am going seems surreal. I have been dreaming about this for so long. It still feels like I’m simply telling a story whenever I speak about this upcoming experience.
And yet here I am. Experiencing it.
I can’t wait to share with you the ups and downs and all-arounds of this insane, exciting, and incredibly surreal year ahead. If you are reading this from one of my homes, then you are with me every step of the way. If you are me reading this nine months from now, I hope you found home.
I’ll talk to you guys soon.