"Wherever you go, there you are." It's a truth that's both liberating and terrifying. I thought about this while riding the coast last Monday. If nothing was chaining you to a place- no mortgage, significant other, kids, permanent career, and you had the choice to transplant, where would you go?
It's a good question. It extracted me from autopilot mode and forced me to observe my life in detail. Challenged me to evaluate what makes a life rewarding and full.
By Thursday I was convinced. I'm moving to Portland.
Or maybe Bend.
The cost of living is less. I'd start fresh in a new city on my own terms versus being unexpectedly uprooted. People would know me only starting with my smile. It would test my sense of self in the largest possible way. Without social context and history that people construct of you over time, you're essentially a clean slate. Some artists are paralyzed by the blank page. I find it ripe with potential, bursting with possibility. In Oregon, I'd explore new trails and write in quaint corner coffee shops and make new friends with the locals and learn how to mountain bike. I'd have to be brave and adventurous and ask for help.
And yet I fundamentally knew what I'd be leaving behind. We are meant to have tribes, to be among people who've witnessed the undulations of our lives. Who know our stories. Walked us through devastation and helped resurrect us from the ashes. Who genuinely care for us. I have that here. I have my 'joy network,' as a friend aptly called it. My family. Triathletes to celebrate with after races who inquire about the details- what was my mantra? How did I feel exiting the swim? A guitarist who practices songs so we can perform at open mics together. A lovely writer friend who sips tea with me and meticulously combs through my work and gives me constructive feedback to make me better. PK, who cultivates curiosity and celebrates my small wins- when I was finally able to meditate longer than five minutes and stopped eating processed lunchmeat- and who teaches me how to move through this world by her own example. My friend who climbs rocks with me and listens to my endless stream of consciousness ideas and challenges me to read science fiction. It's true. No single person can possibly fulfill all of these multi-faceted parts of our lives that make us feel seen and heard and understood. We need a network. A joy network. So what makes someone just abandon their existing tribe to leave and start from scratch?
All of this was swarming in my head. The desire to have novelty in my life, mixed with adventure. Torn between having the luxury of freedom and independence, yet aware of my desire for partnership. Later on in the day, my friend held my hand and looked into my confused eyes and said, "Oh, Julianne, you're already whole. You're spinning on an axis in a beautiful way, already complete. You're just looking for the perfect place to lay down your roots." I could only nod. I had no words.
I like this wishbone-shaped tree because it reminds me that we have agency over our lives. Wishbones rarely crack in your favor. Wishes are good for birthday candles. But for my life, I want to make conscious, deliberate and well-planned choices. Thrive and stretch towards the sun. Put my roots down in fertile soil and trust they'll firmly intertwine with my joy network, wherever that may be.