A sense of place

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.

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Definitely too small for a home! Pumpkin in his travel basket.

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.

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One of my favorite places in Florida!

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.

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Golde was not always about yoga- too much exercise!

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. 

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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?

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Gumbo likes the couch. It gives him a sense of place!

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