A Double Homecoming of Sorts

I recently listened to a podcast where a woman considered her college town more as “home” than the place where she grew up. I would say the same thing for me. And it’s interesting—even as I write that phrasing “where she grew up,” there could be two ways of looking at that.

For me, I’m blessed to have a few different places I call “home.”

Baltimore, Maryland might be where I was born and raised, but I did my growing up in Northern Virginia. I turned 18 in Virginia. I turned 21 in Virginia. I got my first [big girl] job in Virginia.

So, every time I get to go back and visit my friends, it’s like a homecoming.

But Virginia wasn’t the only place I matured. Between Virginia and Virginia (yes, you read that correctly), there was New York City.

New York was where I gained my foundation in ministry and in my calling. It was where I discovered how entrepreneurial I am. I was a young woman in a big city and the world was mine.

nyc 2014
September 2014, when I arrived in the Big Apple, full of faith!

Maybe that’s why I feel so displaced here in Baltimore, even though it’s supposed to be “home.”

So, that’s the backdrop for this post.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to New York to see my spiritual family that I built, that I was grafted into, in Virginia. We celebrated one of my friends’ birthdays and he happened to relocate from Virginia to New York (which is his original hometown, interestingly enough. Themes. I like themes!). And although I was there to celebrate him, God made sure that I gained something extra special out of the experience just for me.

evan

And because I’ve started to document this trip bit by bit on Instagram, I’m just going to steal my own words for this post instead of coming up with new content. And I’ll share with you some of the great pictures that came out of the trip as well!

So, here goes:

I didn’t know how I was going to fare in New York this past weekend. My anxiety had recently gotten so bad that I was afraid to even be in my house on my own alone. (If you’ve watched the movie Beats on Netflix, you’ll get a little bit of an understanding of what this could look like.)

But I had been looking forward to this trip all summer, so I wasn’t going to let anything stop me.

My mom graciously offered to ride up on the bus with me, just to make sure I was comfortable. She only stayed a few hours then turned right back around and went home.

mom

To my amazement, I experienced an incredible amount of peace during my time in the busy city. I could’ve been overwhelmed by all of the hustle and bustle, the crowds, the jam-packed trains, etc. But I had my toolbox to help me through and keep me grounded.

These pictures literally depict a grounding technique called earthing. Putting my feet in contact with the earth helps stabilize and center me. I’m glad we got a chance to get a change of scenery from the city and got to Coney Island so I could be around the sand and water, even if it was just for 10 minutes!

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Other techniques I utilized during this trip were the meditation affirmations that I recorded in my phone to walk myself through positive thinking and deep breathing. It works wonders! I listened to it on a long train ride and was knocked out within minutes!

But it hasn’t been easy creating my new normal. I had to turn down hanging out with my line sisters so I could rest up the week before and save my energy. And even on the trip, there were some times where I didn’t go to every outing. I stayed in the hotel or went back to the hotel early when I reached my capacity.

But thank God I’ve taken some time to learn my body and how it speaks to me so I don’t push myself to the point of exhaustion like I did in the past.

My friends were very supportive of my need for space and didn’t make me feel bad for not being able to partake in every activity.

coney island

Another huge win was the fact that, in the Fashion Capital of the world, I had the opportunity to do a few photoshoots—both in front of and behind the camera! I have a friend who has a professional DSLR digital camera that she brought with her on the trip. She knew that I dabble in photography, so she asked me to take some pictures of her wearing the outfits she made so she could post them on her blog.

I had ZERO experience shooting with her camera before (though I’ve used ones like it in the past, not knowing was I was doing clearly), but after she gave me a tutorial, I was ready to get to work!

What was even more exciting about that experience was the fact that she wanted to take pictures of me, too! Specifically in one of the dresses that I packed. The dress was inspired by her, actually, because I altered it a little bit as a DIY (do it yourself) project. So the fact that she recognized the beauty of the article of clothing and wanted to photograph me as a model, was really special!

Here are some of the amazing shots that came out of our photoshoot!

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Doing this random photoshoot on the streets of Harlem in this dress signified my loudness and boldness, but also my spunkiness and lightheartedness. I’ve recently found myself apologizing for my emotions—whether happy or sad, joyful or sorrowful. The truth is: they’re BIG and expressive and I’m still learning how to embrace them.

So, I wanted the photoshoot to reflect the fact that I can be BOTH-AND. I don’t have to choose either/or. I took up space, stood tall and confident, and slayed it! “Taking up space” is the concept of showing up loudly and proudly in places that you wouldn’t normally go to, places that wouldn’t normally accept you, or things you wouldn’t normally do. It’s the idea that you belong and your presence needs to be recognized. Your gifts matter. Your journey matters. Your “differentness” matters.

I’d say a third and final highlight of the trip (from a spiritual and emotional growth perspective, at least), was the car ride back home with two of my friends.

mirror pic
Earlier in the weekend before we went out for dinner!

It began all lighthearted, as we were sharing laughs from conversations that were exchanged during the weekend.

Then, for some reason, as I was approaching home (Baltimore), I found myself getting extremely discouraged. The best way to describe it was that I felt like the weekend getaway was just a temporary high and that I would be confronted with a different reality when I got home.

I shared all of these sad feelings with my friends and was just crying it out in the car. In that moment, I realized how much I missed all of the laughs and good times with everyone and how I’m struggling to build something similar at home.

But as I just continued to pour out my feelings and lament (“lamenting” was the sermon topic earlier that morning), my perspective brightened. I reminded myself that I have so many people around me at home who love me and who are walking with me.

They may show up differently to me than how my VA friends do, but that doesn’t make their love any less valuable or tangible.

I had to remind myself of all of the great strides I’ve made in Baltimore these past 7 months and how a great healing work is indeed occurring.

It’s important for me to catch the narrative, the “story I’m telling myself,” as popular researcher and professor Brene Brown says.

I need to change the narrative of what Baltimore means to me. What’s been helping me with that is the messages I receive every Sunday I go to my new church. I’m reminded that God doesn’t call us to a place to leave or forsake us, but He will finish the work He started in us!

Honestly, sometimes it feels like Baltimore signifies the place I had to go to because my career “fell apart.” I had to go back home and start over. I had been seeing it as a place of failure. Just being completely honest.

But that’s not what God would say about it!

Home is wherever family is. And I’m blessed to have family in a few different states.

framily

In the podcast I was interviewed on in May, I talk about the revelation that family is one of the most important pillars in my life. Careers and job titles can and will change. But family is forever.

I know I hadn’t written in a little while but hopefully this post is rich enough to make up for my absence!

Until Next Time,

Jess

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