This Is Where You Belong
After being laid off from my job two months ago, I packed my desk and drove to the beach. It was a perfect day for shorts and a sweater, walking along the bike paths and lifting my face toward the sun every few minutes. I wanted my skin to burn.
I walked two miles of sand between the Santa Monica pier and a little shack of a restaurant I’d discovered one day on a sunset walk with two of my friends. I’d lived here for nearly two years, and life just seemed to work out for me in this place. I had a job I loved, friends who never let me feel lonely, an apartment behind Whole Foods with purple walls and the perfect reading chair.
I knew people who lived in places they were counting down days to move away from, people at home with their parents trying to figure out which spot on the map they were saving up to escape to. When they asked me how I liked living in L.A. all I knew how to do was smile.
“It’s home,” I’d tell them. “It feels like home.”
Then slowly things started drifting away. I started driving to my hometown more often, didn’t remember the last time I saw a friend who lived just down the street. And then I got called into an office at work and was told they didn’t have the resources to keep me on anymore. I was free to go.
I kept my face toward the sun, waiting for my skin to burn. I was free to go anywhere; was this still where I really belonged?
I’ve spent a lifetime leaving pieces of my heart on places across the map. The house I grew up in, my mother’s always comforting arms. My first apartment on Picasso Street where I met my first love—he holds a piece of it as well. Hyde Park, a path I walked every day during a summer abroad in London. The Lake Tahoe of my childhood memories—my family spent a week camping there every year. A piece of my heart is on a road trip across the United States right now, held safe in the love of my best friend. My sister took a piece of it when she spent two years living in Japan. I left a piece on the Highline in New York, in a gelato shop in Rome, strolling the Champs Elysees in Paris.
I have felt myself belong to so many places, with so many people, so many times. To ask myself where I belong isn’t a question I have an answer to.
Santa Monica is just one spot on the map where I’ve left a piece of my heart floating in the waves. It’s a place where I belong right now.
The next day I woke up to pieces of burned skin peeling off my face—new flesh soft to the touch underneath.
Being laid off has given me a chance to start over. A chance to reevaluate what I want and where I want to be.
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t scare me. If I claimed to know where I am headed from here. But I do know that wherever I end up, a piece of me will always belong on the beach by my apartment with purple walls and the perfect reading chair. I just might be given the chance to let another piece belong somewhere new.
I have a lifetime of evidence to show me belonging can feel as simple as breathing. Wherever you are, breathe it in.
I belong, I belong, I belong.