I grew up moving a lot as a kid. I wasn’t an army brat, I was a neuroscience brat (if that’s even a thing). It felt normal at the time, but looking back, my family did a lot of traveling. I was born in and grew up in Gdansk, Poland. At the age of 6 I moved to Staten Island, NY to join my dad who was working at the university there. He left a year before the rest of the family. We were there for 18 months. I started school in America. We returned to Poland after that time. We stayed there for a while, but soon my dad got a job in Finland. He was there for two years, while I was in 5th-7th grade. We did not move with him, but traveled there for summers and holidays. He then returned to Poland, but moved to the US when I was 15. We joined him in December of 2000 and spent our first Christmas in the States. Of all the places a Polish born city girl could end up in, we were in Morgantown, West Virginia. This was quite the culture shock, but I finished high school there.
I left for college after my senior year. It was only 4 hours from my new “home”, but I never went back. To make things more hectic, as a theatre major, I worked summer stock. This means I lived one place for 9 month out of the year, and left the state for theatre gigs for the 3 months of summer (something I still do today). Of course, grad school followed, moving me to Florida. I was there for 3 years. During that time, my parents relocated to Ohio, chasing that neuroscience dream. They are still there today, in a town and house I’ve never lived in. I was in close proximity to them at my first job out of grad school, when I moved to Indiana and stayed there for 3 years. Following that, I landed here. It is the longest place I’ve continually lived. I’m in the middle of year 7, and as I mentioned, I tend to move away for at least one gig each summer.
With that, it can be really hard to have a sense of place. Where is home? What does home even mean? I consider these thoughts a lot, especially around the holidays. While other folks are going home, I’m visiting family. Aside from them, nothing is familiar. I don’t have a childhood bedroom to return to. It’s a movie trope I’m often jealous of, as I say to myself: “That’s what a sense of belonging looks like!” And across from your childhood bedroom, the home of your childhood friend. Who’s also home for the holidays. I don’t live in that Hallmark special, and I never have. While “home” is here, experience has taught me that I could move at any time. Then, “home” will be elsewhere. What does that do to my sense of belonging?
I had this thought when I visited the city this summer. Mr. SS was doing a performance right after I was done with a gig, so it made sense to visit directly after my opening night. After being gone for over 3 weeks, I was now heading there for more adventure and a strange AirBnB. One of the things we try to do when we travel is to check out a local yoga studio and do a class. As luck would have it, a studio just a few blocks away from our place was having a “wine & flow” class that evening. I’ve always wanted to do one of those, and since it lined up perfectly with our schedule, off we went.
The studio was tiny, I’m not sure if more than 6 mats would have fit in it. The instructor was incredibly friendly and welcoming, and we chatted as we settled on our mats. The class was 4 students and the instructor, and after a short introduction and sharing personal stories of what brought us here today, we began a wonderful and challenging flow class with a great relaxation at the end. This was followed by the wine and more conversation, settled on our mats. It was a lovely event, and I left feeling both invigorated and calm. I also felt the weariness of traveling move away. Then I realized why. This was it. I was home.
While I certainly practiced before then, I started doing yoga fairly regularly in 2008. Since March of this year, I also developed a personal, daily practice. Wherever I go, my yoga mat comes with me. That 24” by 68” purple rectangle grounds me. I feel a sense of belonging. When I’m there,I know my purpose. I connect with something big inside of me. I travel with my breath. I relax and release my body. I practice. I can return to it again, and again. Familiar and comforting. Home.
Since that realization, I’ve been appreciating the yoga in my life a lot more. Unlike the places I’ve lived, I can take my practice with me. And I’m realizing that home doesn’t have to be a physical place. It can be a sense of place. For me, that’s my mat.
What’s your sense of place?