I began to miss New York City the minute I moved away from it. Not that I actually lived there, but just losing the proximity of a short train ride to a huge metropolis made the idea of pursuing something greater than myself fade away into the back countries of my mind. Not to mention, I had also left the third best small town in the country–Red Bank–as named by Smithsonian Magazine in 2012. But who’s keeping track? I had given up these landmarks and titles for a clean slate and open space, room for me to resuscitate my life and stretch. It was only after I left did those places begin to mean something to me, entirely separate of their superficial status and instead much more deep. Not that I wanted to go back, but just didn’t want to lose my Northeast roots entirely to the Mid-Atlantic wave.
Turns out, there’s actually a great divide between the two — the Mason Dixon line, and never did I think I’d be splitting my life along its ridges. The ebbs and flows of adulthood are carved here, from the District to the tunnels and traffic along I-95 over the Delaware Memorial Bridge to the beloved Turnpike. I enjoy the rhythm that traveling often has provided me, one I am constantly trying to dance to, though always seem to stumble over instead. The breakneck pace of New Jersey makes me appreciate the time Marylanders take to simply say hello, and I wonder quite often how I was ever able to make it out of the proving grounds of Pennsylvania, where the ability to make change was like trying to start a fire in a frozen tundra of time. Those competing beats are hard to play, though damn near fun when I remember that context is an awful lot like a soundtrack to any situation. But it took me a while to realize there was a moral fracture in my mix tape, and with far too much prominence on the places, I was completely out of key every time I played it back.
It’s a mistake to segregate your experiences by their geographical locations. In fact, I’ve learned there are oftentimes same names for different places. So perhaps places on a map have nothing to do with it. Maybe it’s about making a home, even if completely by yourself. I’m convinced that the successful nomad understands the delicacies of home life on the road–taking off your shoes, washing your hands, hanging up your jacket or finishing your meal. These are all metaphors for humility, respect and giving up the weight of worry. You are here to stay. If only, for a moment. So enjoy.
I’ve tried to take this approach with the new faces I’ve met, in whatever big town or small city I’ve spent time. The most important part, of course, is spending the time. And it’s been the best medicine for a restless soul fractured by the disappointment of traveling without a compass, or perhaps, a companion. Tough break, if weren’t for direction. The point is, to stop and ask for them.
Question marks are the musical notes you forgot how to play in front of sold-out shows, but performed like a rock star in the safety of your bedroom. Like I said, context. And like any bad break (break a leg!), the chance to start over, to reset and remember, comes only with the support of others. Doctors disguised as good friends actually make phenomenal DJs when throwing down remixes. Now that’s a rhythm I can move to.