Throwback Edition: Searching for Home

Plus, Dolly Parton's a-political miracle, puppies, and a cool project that urges you to buy less

Once a month I re-circulate an old edition that deserves a second breath of air. I wasn’t planning to send this one out today, but after reading it I got a strong intuitive feeling that someone, somewhere, might need to read this today.

Have you ever gone back to read an old journal entry and felt sympathy for your former self? That’s how I felt after reading this one. I distinctly remember where I was while writing it—sitting at the small, crickety kitchen table to the Greenpoint apartment I was subletting last October, hardly able to see the words I was typing through my tears. I hysterically cried the entire time writing this essay, so much so that I don’t even think I read it a second time before sending it out. I had just gone through a painful breakup and I was afraid to be back in New York and afraid to be alone, but alone I was. The future felt unclear and I couldn’t seem to find my footing within it. Nothing felt steady, I was like an orb floating out in space.

But a lot can change in nine months. Nine months can feel like a lifetime. I write to you today from a sense of peace, a sense of appreciation, and of being home—but that is just today. Our sense of peace and joy will forever be waxing and waning. We’re only human, after all. If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or unmoored, know that it’s only a feeling and it will pass. Tomorrow might promise something brighter.

Cheers, I’ll be back in your inbox with a new edition next week. Take good care of yourself this weekend.

A Note From the Editor

There is a line that has appeared in my mind unexpectedly at many different times throughout my life, like an old song. It recently came back to me on a walk through a town where I spent many adoring childhood summers, in a place that a younger version of me pined for with physical pain, but that the adult version of me had begun to see with a different set of eyes. It was a cool, late summer evening and the street was quiet when I found the familiar line appearing in my mind yet again:

I have been searching for home since the day I was born.

In the rare moments when I am able to examine my life like an interested stranger studying something linear, I can see that I have always been either running away from, or towards, the idea of home. I was raised in a small, generic town in central Florida. Being there felt like wearing the wrong-sized shoes; bearable at first, but uncomfortable, irritating, then eventually, painful. By the simple definition, home is where you hail from, but I know I am far from the first or the last person to feel a disconnect with the place I was raised. Those people and I will tell you that when a place that is supposed to be home doesn’t fit your bones, you begin to itch so insistently that you want to jump out of your skin, and when you eventually break away, it feels like the first sign of morning.

I've traversed many lands while searching for home. The dazzling lights of Las Vegas, the excess and opulence counteracted by the dry expanse of mountains, which felt both familiar and foreign. The sandy, salty shores of Maui, the thrill and fear of being so physically far away from everything and everyone I knew while sitting on the edge of the water and realizing that I could not get in my car and drive away even if I wanted to. The cold, commercialized stretch of Scottsdale, in an apartment filled with pristine furniture, cherry wood floors, a refrigerator just for wine, and a palpable lack of vitality.

Coming to New York, then, felt like a reawakening. For the first time in my life, I knew I was home, and I felt it in every particle of my being. It was only then that I realized what I had spent so many restless years searching for; a place that could open its arms to me, to comfort me and challenge me and call me out on my bullshit in a way that only home can. Even my loneliness felt less achy because I knew that my setting was correct. I knew, almost inherently, that there was so much awaiting me within the confines of this city. It was in New York that I learned even home can feel lonely sometimes.

They say people are home, too, and I know that to be true. We spent so much of our lives in the company of others. We put energy and effort into breaking down our walls brick by brick, simply for the sake of letting others in. We expose our flaws and our fears and we draw others close. The connections we forge are the most necessary parts of home, and every person we invite in becomes a notch in the makeup of our structure. Some are foundational, a piece of something large and indispensable, while others are the electrical current that turns on our lights and powers our heat. Some are adornments: a doorknob, a window a mirror, but each part is uniquely essential to our completeness.

And so it shouldn’t feel as surprising as it does that lately, I have experienced the sinking sensation of losing my grip on home. If home is the first city that embraced you and held you close, then with every shuttered business and canceled event, with every ugly injustice and social hemorrhaging that follows, the lights of home dim. If home is a person, then with every friend who departs to be closer to their roots, with every loved one who gives up on creature comforts in search of something nomadic and new, with every love that is reexamined under a pressurized lens, the lights of home dim even further still, until we are left with what feels like a dark, small cave, not a home at all. We become wanderers, unmoored and searching.

Where are we to reside, then, when the homes we have spent years meticulously crafting threaten to unspool? How are we to act as a source of strength the reverence when we can no longer identify the structure of home, a place that brought us comfort? How are we to react when our former idea of home begins to change shape, when we revisit the places that anchored us only to find something has shifted and the sense of belonging we once felt is gone? I am grappling with these questions this week, returning to New York for a period of time after being away for many months. I feel like a stranger in my own city, in my own body, and I am unable to plug the holes that are gaping inside of me because I can’t think of a better alternative. Everything has changed, around me and inside of me, and I don’t know how to come home when home has lost its shape and function.

In my heart, and in all of our hearts, we are able to grow enough to recognize that there is no one simple solution to any of life’s multifaceted questions. There is no one city, one physical structure, or one person that will make it all better, that will open its doors and let us in and dissolve all of our worry and fear and sadness. Maybe, then, home is not a place or a city or a person. Maybe home is within us, buried in a space close to our fleshy, tender hearts.

Maybe home is the trickle of joy and pain we have collected like raindrops in a bucket; the charged locking of eyes across a room, the wild laughter of our sister, the soft touch of our first love, the trepidation of moving to a new city, the bartender who remembered our name, the restorative weekend with a group of erstwhile strangers, the physical pain of spraining an ankle, the discomfort of the stillness that was required to let it heal. Maybe home is a collection of these things that live on inside of us despite the outside world, despite the uncertainty and the perpetually changing circumstances. Maybe, right now, right where we are able to meet ourselves, we are home.

Cheers, my dears, and whenever you are, I hope you are home.

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Three Pieces of Content Worth Consuming

  1. Dolly Parton, The Impossibly A-Political Goddess. I often wonder whether it's better, or even possible, to be a person who is “not political.” I say this from my (happily occupied) stance in the trenches of my beliefs, a place where my opinions have, at times, alienated me and caused quarrels with people I love. I find it fascinating that Dolly Parton has somehow evaded taking a definitive political stance on one side or the other while maintaining a beloved place in the hearts of many people from many backgrounds. Women in country music, like Parton and more decisively, The Chicks, deserve a special honor for having the courage to speak out and stand up in a homogenous industry that was built around the support of right-leaning listeners (watch this powerful music video or read up on Parton’s BLM stance if you need more evidence of the claim). I loved reading about how Parton has done what so many others cannot; managed to keep her politics under lock and key while living her ideals, being kind and true, and always giving back. Parton is the contra of performative activism.

  2. I’ll Be Straight Up, It’s Just a Bunch of Puppies. I normally try to reserve this section of the newsletter for harder-hitting think pieces, but I’m giving you a little bit of what I need this week: puppies. I hope these puppy pictures bring you as much joy as they are bringing me. Bookmark this one for a rainy day.

  3. What Do White Men Think About Their Privilege? Do They? Before reading this article, I hadn't thought about my own whiteness in terms of what may or may not be associated with it. Here's what I mean: racial stereotypes have run rampant for as long as people have been people, we can all think of jokes, tropes, unfair and often cruel qualities that have been associated with various races. Except, perhaps, whiteness, which white people have often viewed as the great equalizer, the “neutral”. In the wake of the racial reckoning America is facing, white people are beginning to get their own set of widely circulated, stereotyped traits, and like most stereotypes, these traits are not positive — privileged, racist, Karen’s, nationalists, small-minded, etc. If you happen to be a white person who doesn’t identify with these traits, I ask: how does it feel to have people make assumptions about you that are not accurate based solely on the color of your skin? Not good, and you can see that in the defensiveness around white privilege so many have exhibited in recent months. I love this piece because the author, a Yale professor, puts whiteness in a glass jar and examines it the same way the country has always put Blackness in a jar as a thing to be examined. Whiteness is not the baseline, nor is it an excuse or a neutralizer. If race is something you examine in forming your opinions about people and the world, you must also examine whiteness through that very same lens. A favorite snippet from the piece:

The old script would have left his whiteness unacknowledged in my consideration of his slight. But a rude man and a rude white man have different presumptions. Just as when a white person confronted by an actual black human being needs to negotiate stereotypes of blackness so that he can arrive at the person standing before him, I hoped to give the man the same courtesy but in the reverse.

Perhaps You Should…
Get Involved in the Buy Nothing Project

Have you heard of the Buy Nothing Project? I found a local Buy Nothing group on Facebook this summer and was delighted to see the concept in action. Living in a consumer-driven society means plenty of excess, waste, and thrown-away crap. The Buy Nothing Project seeks to eliminate some of those buy/toss/repeat behaviors by creating small, hyper-local online groups where people can give away things they may no longer need, while others might find something they need in lieu of purchasing it new. As I was moving out of my apartment in June I had a pile of things that I didn’t have the energy to sell or the time to donate, but that I also didn’t want to throw away. I posted them on my local BNP page (a puzzle, a lamp, an unopened cream I had a duplicate of, an old wallet, a few books, unused moving boxes) and much to my delight, every single item was claimed and picked up. I’ve seen so much humanity in this group; a woman offering up an old Mac laptop, gifted to a struggling single mother whose son had been attempting remote learning from a broken IPad, and I simply love the concept. You can find your local group here.

**Bonus Content** (Some Bad Ass Young Women)

I don’t have TikTok and as such, I am very much not up on the trends that percolate and bubble on the platform, but I did happen to stumble across this thread and I’m glad. For AOC’s birthday, young women made these clever videos of themselves applying makeup while lip-syncing (words, not lyrics) to AOC’s speech on the House floor recounting her encounter with Ted Yoho remixed with a Kendrick Lamar song. The result gives me chills. Also, I’d suggest following the dynamic New York Times technology reporter, Taylor Lorenz, for more content like this.

A Quote From A Book You Should Read:

“Whose house is this? Whose night keeps out the light in here? Say, who owns this house? It’s not mine. I dreamed another, sweeter, brighter With a view of lakes crossed in painted boats; Of fields wide as arms open for me. This house is strange. Its shadows lie. Say, tell me, why does its lock fit my key?”

-Home by Toni Morrison

This newsletter is best served with a side of conversation, so drop your opinions, reflections, and thoughts in the comments below and let’s get to talking.

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Or, share the most thought-provoking piece from today’s edition with someone you love, then call them up to discuss, debate, and percolate. As a wise woman once said, “Great minds discuss ideas.”