This is Me. This is Home.
I woke up to the sound of bells chiming. Then I tipped out through the kitchen and slipped out of the front door (There are some things us bare feet girls can do that girls in high heels can’t). I made my way to the park barefooted in my cotton flower-patterned pajama shorts and a shirt my sister Meg had given me that read, “Not all who wander are lost.” My hair was scraggly, my breath was unbrushed and unbreakfasted, and my eyes were still blinking at a slow morning pace.
I sat on a bench next to a little creek and flipped open the City Weekly. An old couple passed by me on their morning stroll and said, “Good morning!” I replied, echoing their chip and energetic voices. That was nice, I thought. Another five minutes went by, and an old woman with a poodle passed echoing the wishes of a good and early day yet again. And then, well, three time’s a charm, right? A third group, another couple, wished me a happy beginning to my day.
The grass was soft beneath my feet. I turned and saw my car stuffed with boxes of my belongings—all of the little things that made up “me”—from cardigans with heart-shaped elbow patches to running shoes, from yellow note pads to bright green tennis balls, from postcards collected from Europe to a full collection of Calvin and Hobbes comics. With all of my things behind the windows of my little white car, I realized I was more homeless than usual. Usually it was just me, but this time I had to keep an eye on my car, my possessions…Which I must say, started off bumpy. (Car battery mishap! Bad news: Car batteries are expensive. Silver lining: I now know how to use jumper cables correctly even though the sparks still make me jump frightfully.)
Funnily enough, I still had never felt closer to finding a place to belong. It’s hard to explain, but Home, I felt, could be only an evening stroll or morning jog away.
…And how right I was.
I jogged past a little place that caught my eye. A “For Rent” sign sat on the patch of grass in front of the building. I memorized the number (working as a hostess at a busy restaurant in New York has sharpened my memory!), and called about the apartment. It was already taken. But, the man’s voice said, there was another one similar to it just one street down.
Two days later, (In this time period, I asked all of you to cross your fingers for me. I had submitted an application, and as you can guess… On paper, I’m not very impressive so I was extremely nervous.) I got the apartment! How? I don’t know! Maybe it was all of the luck you all gave me! But I got it, and when I received the keys… I may or may not have done a little victory dance (Jade vs Life - Score: Jade: 1, Life: 1390482304823904832048320) I climbed up and down the stairs hauling up boxes of the things I had troubled to keep with me (still way too much). After lugging everything up to my apartment, I leaned on the blank kitchen counter. It was a hot day. A quiet day. I was alone. I was in an apartment to call my own. I had some how scrambled up enough money for a deposit and the first month's rent. I was exhausted. I was so scared. I was so happy. I was...
I breathed. This was me. This was an empty apartment full of heavy boxes (mostly books). This was me. An empty fridge, empty cupboards, empty room. This was me. Short curls, sparkles over my eyes, sandals on my feet. This was me. Sweaty back, no furniture, no mattress. This was me.
It had been a year since I had left my last apartment—an apartment that I lived in for a year. And now I was here: I didn’t mind driving around back to park behind my building after living in Los Angeles where parking was a bitch. I didn’t mind the dry heat or the dryness in general of Utah after living in Florida where mosquitos drowned in the sweat that glossed over my body. I didn’t mind the ankle length skirts or men in suits and ties walking around after living in cute little St. George, Utah full of locals in their Sunday best. I didn’t mind the tall buildings or the noisiness of downtown after living in the never-sleeping Manhattan and Brooklyn. And I certainly didn’t mind sleeping on the floor here after learning to fall asleep under mosquito nets and on damp sheets in Costa Rica.
I didn’t mind a lot of things. In fact, I liked a lot of things. This whole year had kind of been leading up to this. Maybe if I was paying extra special attention to things, I could have guessed that I would find myself here. But of course, when do we ever pay attention to things that close, really?
This was me. And this was home.
I met a guy at the park (yeah, people are just friendly and talk to you here *See, people? I’m not the only one!*) and he asked where I was from—where my home was. The question hit me right in the chest. Home. Home? Home! What do I say? What do I say! Most of the time, I try to avoid saying, “I don’t have one really,” because I think it sounds pretentious to strangers just trying to ask a friendly question but…
Sometimes I want to say Costa Rica. Yep. I was there only for a month, but I feel I grew so much there in such a short time and had such a supportive second family there that it felt like home. Plus, it sounds impressive to people that I run into on the streets of downtown Salt Lake City.
Sometimes I want to say New York. Sure, I was only there for the winter really, but I was there for THE WINTER. I worked until the early morning hours. I spoke with the homeless and made friends on the L Train. I shopped at the Farmer’s Market at Union Square. I got a library card and read my first Neil Gaiman book from the New York City Public Library. I had roommates that made me laugh. Anyway, New York sounds equally impressive.
I could play the wow factor with Florida. East Coast. Beach. Babes. An hour from Miami. Sun tan lotion and Sex on the Beach (the drink, people, the drink). Who am I kidding? I don't like alcohol! Ha! (But it sounds cool, right?) I could stay a mystery and say Florida, the tennis capitol of the world.
Some see the hipster in me (whatever the hell that means), and I think Los Angeles could sound pretty posh. I love mentioning Silverlake just to let people know that I know where the cool places are at. I’ve had a bowl of Silverlake Ramen. I’ve taken a month of yoga from Urth Yoga. I ate hearty breakfasts at Local and Squirl, and I know where to get Korean BBQ that will blow your kimchi-worshipping minds. Los Angeles is cool and hip.
So what did I say to the guy I met at the park?
“Utah. I’m from here, actually.”
“Really? You don’t seem.. You seem—From here? Really?”
Shock factor mission accomplished. Who knew I could be so cool and interesting and be from… Utah?
All of these months. All of this traveling. All of this growing into what I call me…
And the truth is, wherever I went, wherever I wondered, I always missed the mountains. Not just any mountains too. I missed Utah’s mountains. I don't know why I fought it so much...
Walking back through the park, a young man on a bike past me. "Hello!" he called out. I waved back quietly. Then he blew me a kiss, and I blushed, smiled, and we both continued on our way.
This is me. This is home. This is my year. I’m going to find me a coffee shop where I’ll soon order, “The regular, Billy. Thank you.” I’m going to find my reading spot at my favorite park. I’m going to find friends that will tell me when I have failed in attempt to make avocado pie and who will cheer for me from the bottom of their hearts for every little win I get in this life here in Salt Lake City. And by golly, I’m going to start this wonderful SLC adventure by scraping up enough money to make next months rent! Bring it on, Life. Bring. It. On.
This post is dedicated to two people. The first person - because home is special when we decide to make it special, and if you learn that, you will be happy. And the second person - because once you leaned towards me and whispered, “Isn’t Utah beautiful?”