Tuesday 14 August 2018

What is home?

I walk in, and all I notice is the institutionalized wall colour (you know the one), the fluorescent lights, and a sea of strange faces. Old me would have hidden behind her desk for as long as possible, talking little, always the new girl, even after a year of employment. 
But I'm determined to make the most of this experience, so I tell my introverted self to put her big girl panties on, take a deep breath, and venture out. 
I'm doing what I said in my interview I would: I'm approaching people and introduce myself. I'm wearing my name badge, because isn't it so much easier to remember a name when you've seen it written down? 
And without a fail, everybody smiles and welcomes me warmly. My heart lifts.
Once I'm back at my desk I write down all the new names with a brief description, so I will learn them quicker. 

The next day when I come in, I greet every person I see by name: the clerk, the lab techs and assistants I share an office with, the doctor on duty and the nurses I know. I introduce myself to the ones I don't.  And you know what? I notice the institutionalized wall colour less today.  
When a co-worker asks me to come boxing with her that night, instead of saying no, I agree - and then I even show up. And just like that, there are two buildings in this new town that don't feel strange or intimidating anymore - the hospital and the restaurant/gym where I boxed.

But then the weekend arrives, and with it 48 hours of no work (except for possible call backs) and endless amounts of free time. I'm standing at a crossroads: I could easily feel sorry for myself, wallow in self-pity about having to stay alone in a strange place, maybe even cry a little. I have done that plenty of times in the past, and you know what? It's no fun, it's boring, and it's silly. After all, pretty much every person I know bemoans their lack of time, wishing for more time for themselves. I'm the envy of every adult in North America! So I do what I always do: I make a list.
The next step is easy: just start working on it!
I have a shower, a cup of coffee, and then I'm off to do something I've always wanted to do (but never have): go to a coffee shop to have breakfast and write. Can you believe that I have never taken my laptop to a cafe? It's a fantasy I've had ever since I started writing seriously, yet I have never done it. 
Kinda unbelievable. 
But today is the day, and as I walk to my car, any trace of self pity is gone, and I'm feeling excited for the day. The sun is shining, the sky is - well, smoky, but what can you do, and I'm full of energy. 
On the way to the coffee shop I stop at a hair salon to get my bangs trimmed (item #2 crossed off the list), buy shampoo and conditioner at the drugstore (all the customers seem to know each other and are chatting, which is nice), and then I arrive.

The coffee shop is awesome: old wooden floors, mismatched wooden furniture, tiffany lamps, and different merchandise lined up along the walls: pottery, funky jewellery, handmade candles, local honey, and other cute knickknacks. The clientele is mixed as well: two bikers sit on the tiny porch, one digging into a huge plate of eggs, bacon, sausages, potatoes and bread; the other delicately eating a bowl of fruit and yogurt. 
There is an elderly gentleman sitting in the sun, reading the newspaper and sipping a cup of tea; a large group of tourists is noisily planning their day; a young family sits in a booth, the mother and daughter sporting matching boxer's braids; and another set of parents is playing a card game with their daughter.
I order french toast and a cappuccino, and then I sit down at a table right by the window. It's ideal for people watching, which is what I'm doing for a while before opening my laptop and getting down to work.
I spend a happy hour there working on a new project, my second book, munching away on my toast and drinking the delicious cappuccino slowly.

On the way back to my car I pass the hair salon and drugstore again, both buildings now with a little story attached to them, which makes them seem more familiar. I also walk past the library where I borrowed two books on my very first day, something I do in every new town - books are my safe place.
I get called into work, which by now already feels like home: all hospitals have a similar flow and unspoken code of conduct, and once you know it and adhere to it, you are on familiar ground. 

The rest of Saturday passes slowly, but I manage to keep my spirits up by going for a walk, reading, watching 6 episodes of Orange Is The New Black in a row, and texting with friends. I notice that if melancholy threatens to take over, it helps to move around and to occupy my mind by doing something creative, be it taking photos, writing, or doing Insta videos. 

And then it's Sunday, and Rich arrives!
He also brings Lily the corgi, and we are both over the moon excited to see each other! I show him around, we go for a late lunch and a walk afterwards, and then we head to the hotel and cuddle. For hours. Something we haven't done in a while, because when you live together and see each other all the time, you start taking the other person for granted - but not anymore. We have a wonderful time together, and it's hard to say goodbye the next morning. But he promises that he will come whenever I need him to, even for a couple of hours, and I know that he means it.  

That afternoon I discover a sandy bank by the river, and I promise myself to go back there with my book the next day. Nothing gives me more joy than being outside, and watching the slow river, the birds and the occasional deer is soothing.
Yet another small piece feels more like home, and it occurs to me: home is wherever you want it to be. It's in the smile of someone who was a stranger yesterday and is someone with a name and a story today.
It's in walking into work and being greeted by name, and asked how you're settling in. 
It's in finding a beautiful spot by the river, in digging your toes into the warm sand and feeling the sun on your face.
It's in taking your favourite characters with you: the surgeons from Grey Sloan hospital, who are on call just like you, always checking their phone to make sure it's still on; the Gilmore girls who live in a small town just like you, and who find solace in books and coffee; the inmates of Litchfield, who are as trapped as you sometimes feel, with the big difference that you're free. 
They may be fictional characters, but I know that every fictional character has been invented by a real person, and that person put a lot of their own experiences and their own story into them, and doesn't that make them real, in a way?

Home is also the messages and texts and phone calls I get from my real home, the knowledge that I will be there in 3 sleeps, and that I'm loved and needed. It's knowing that I'm contributing to our financial security, that I'm doing what needs to be done, and that I'm also finally doing what I've been avoiding all summer: writing again. 

I'm exactly where I need to be right now, and while it's hard some days, hard is necessary sometimes. Not much happens inside our comfort zones, but outside of it? 
You can achieve anything you want. 

xoxo Miriam



  1. I love this! I especially love your recognition that "one more building is familiar." That is just something I guess I've never put into words that way, but it's so true and such a big thing. Glad your first week seems to have gone well!

    1. It has! Better than expected, really, even though I have to make an effort to make the best of it. It's a very good learning experience to be happy on your own, a lesson all of us have to learn in order to be truly fulfilled. When you're in a long-term relationship, it's too easy to make the other person responsible for your happiness, and that's not fair to that person.

  2. Great job sinking into all of your moments + simply being present! What a fabulous blog of all the realness of feeling the loneliness and the joy of breaking out and being on your own. And those characters that you connect with + the ways you connect with them.... damn, I am so with you. That made a world of sense to me! xoxo

    1. I've been thinking of you a LOT these last few days! I'm slow living for sure (time is passing much slower than it is at home), and I consciously try to make the most of it. It's an effort every day, but the payoff is worth it!
      Having my fictional (and real!) friends with me in spirit or on the screen is a tremendous help.
      And knowing that you can hack it alone? Priceless!

  3. It sounds like your first week went well. I admire your determination to break out of your introvert bubble and get to know people right away. It is something I always struggle with. I like the photo of the river; what a wonderful place to sit and relax. I've always dreamed of going to a coffee shop to sit and write but I have yet to do it. Maybe one day soon.

    1. It's such a small thing - isn't it strange that both of haven't done it? (Until now, for me.) I always heard that the vibe of having people around you (who you don't have to interact with, BONUS) is great for inspiring creativity, and this is true! I know I will be back to my coffee shop soon. Maybe even this afternoon?! Caffeine plus the happy buzz of people talking and enjoying themselves is a great background for writing.

      Even though I'm an introvert I love people, and I would get too lonely if I couldn't have some human connection throughout the day. I have 16 hours of daily alone-time currently, that's enough!
      Approaching people is a skill that can be learnt, and the more you exercise it, the easier it gets. I guess if you're desperate enough (like I am), you'll do it haha!


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