When I was a kid, I didn’t like to be away too far from home. I’d try to spend the night away from home, but I’d have to call my parents to come pick me up. It didn’t matter whether I was at my best friend’s house, at a fun slumber party with the cool kids or even at the beach, a two-hour drive from home— I’d always get homesick, and my mom and dad would always pick me up.
When I was in middle school, my best friend asked if I wanted to go to camp with her that summer. My mom told me that if she spent $500 for a week at camp that she wouldn’t come pick me up if I was homesick. I decided to go anyway. On the first day, we did all sorts of fun things like swimming in the lake, playing Capture the Flag, and riding a zipline. At the end of the day, I crawled in to my top bunk, and my counselor turned the lights off. This was the point during my (attempted) nights away from home where things usually took a dramatic turn. I would suddenly long to be in my own bed, in my own house, and near my mom. This longing would trigger tears. This time was no different, but instead of me waking up in my own bed the next morning, I woke up in the top bunk in a cabin at Camp Kanata. It took me a minute to realize that I had done it! I made it through the night!
After that week at camp, I spent many summers away from home, moved out during college, and lived in India for two years. I learned so much about the wonderful world outside of my home. After I returned from India in 2005, I stayed and worked close to home in Gainesville for a while and became closer to my family and friends again. I was surrounded by an incredible community of people I love and who love me. I was reminded of how great home feels.
My transition away from Gainesville was hard at first. A few things happened that were difficult to manage alone. To name a few: a break-in to my apartment, a car accident, and the hardest— my mom finally needing open heart surgery to repair her prolapsing mitral valve.
I became homesick. I felt that same longing for home I would feel when I was a kid. It was hard to be away from home during the time I felt my mom needed me most, so I turned to my community for support. They provided a great deal of comfort to me during this hard time. I had friends in Gainesville help my mom schedule surgery with the best Cardio-Thoracic surgeon in the area, visit her in the hospital, and even bring me Satchel’s Pizza and coffee while I was with her the weekend after the surgery in the CICU. My dad and brother took incredible care of her once she made it home, and my friends in DC provided so much support to me when I couldn’t be in Gainesville.
Today and every day, I’ve got so much to be thankful for: my mom’s healing heart and her improved health, my family and friends (here, there and everywhere), and for the love I have always known and have never doubted from my parents. Their unconditional love has carried me to where I am today: living in a beautiful world that I get to explore, living with so much love and support across the miles, of course- living with a special dog by my side.
I’ve enjoyed my time in DC. I’ve taken a storytelling class and told a variation of this story on stage to an audience; I’ve meditated with a Zen Buddhist priest who I’ve followed for years; I’ve made some great friends here; and I’ve also had my parents and friends visit me. Right now, I’m learning Russian, which is really hard but awesome. I can tell you where I was born, what I do for work, and where I'm going to be living next year and what the weather is like there. Not too bad after two months. I'm experiencing seasons again for the first time since high school, and I love it. And soon, I’ll get to hear Secretary Clinton speak, will tour the Supreme Court, will see Handel’s Messiah at the National Cathedral and will even get to go to Inauguration! In March or April, I’ll move to Central Asia — to Kyrgyzstan, which is landlocked and the furthest country in the world away from an ocean or sea. Bishkek, the capital city where I'll be living, is surrounded by mountains. It snows there, but everyone I've talked to who has lived there call it a hidden gem. Of course -- I’m excited to explore that part of the world and to share my experiences with all of you.
I wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving and holiday season. Thank you for all your love and support. I’m grateful, and I’m humbled.