Two Places At Once

I can still remember the first time my seventh grade self watched the Nicholas Sparks classic “A Walk to Remember.” I’m not sure if it was the genius way in which Mandy Moore made a cardigan look cool or the fact that she single-handedly encouraged 13-year-olds everywhere that they too could convince a boy with spiky hair and dark eyes to one day fall in love with them too. Either way, the part of that movie that I have always remembered is when Jamie is reading off her dying wishes in the car. (Spoiler alert, sorry but the movie is 15 years old if you don’t know by now how it ends, then my sympathy is minimal.)

Her list reads: Befriend someone I don’t like, get a tattoo, marry in the church my mother grew up in, and my personal favorite; be in two places at once. It’s easy as a young adult and as a human, in general, to feel confused about where you want to be. Suddenly the neighborhood you grew up in is now home to the next cycle of strollers and little leaguers, and the friends that used to be a few houses over now have jobs that take them to big cities like Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, you name it. And while it’s great and healthy to see this growth, it’s easy to feel pulled in multiple directions without having a clear sense of how you’re going to navigate your own way. Jamie’s idea of being in two places at once is more than simply taking a star-fished posed photo straddling two state lines. It’s wanting to be where you are, and wanting to be where you’re going at the same time, and having to face the harsh reality of this impossibility.

When the pinnacle moments of confinement in 2020 left us all wondering if we’d be able to visit our favorite places again, I was not thinking about being in two places at once. In fact, the thought of being anywhere besides my bed seemed very distant. There were a million places I wanted to be, but during the tough stretch, my constant reminder was “be where your feet are.” A concept my dreamer brain sometimes had difficulty remembering, yet a crucial truth to acknowledge and live by. As I write this my feet are crammed in an American Airlines middle row seat, wrapped in mix-matched socks underneath a pair of beat-up Air Force One’s. This morning I woke up in my Rhode Island bedroom, and my feet have taken me to Washington D.C. and eventually the windy city of Chicago, Illinois by the time I finish writing this. Three places in one day, but not quite two places at once; an interesting concept to comprehend, and further reiteration of the fact that you are only ever here…wherever “here” might be. (Deep, I know). (I’d also like to take a brief round of applause for myself for switching terminals and making my connecting flight with approximately seven minutes to do, which thank god, because eight minutes of sprinting would have been an overload of my physical capacity.)

I believe a place is made by its people and its purpose in one’s individual story far more than its real estate or roads. A place is only ever as good as the way it makes you feel, and we often feel drawn to places that feel comfortable, and feel like home. The problem with this methodology as you get older, and your interests and your responsibilities and your social circles expand, home can look different. Home may be at your kickboxing studio that you’ve devoted your weeknights to for the past year, or it may be in a different country you were able to visit, or maybe home is anywhere in the world as long as your with the person or people you’ve come to love over time. And that is where I have begun to struggle with the concept of being in two places at once. In my short 22 years of life thus far, there are so many people who have made a place feel like home for me, and unfortunately, they are scattered all across the place. So although most days I’d like to be in a million places at once, eating dinner with my kick-ass parents, buying cheap wine with Greek locals, sharing a laugh with a friend in Baltimore, a friend in Boston, friend in Dallas, a friend in Denver and so on, this is not the way life goes.

Since I’ve started my first full time job after school, I get asked a lot where I plan to move. Isn’t your office in New York? Still chasing your Austin dream? I feel like your a Boston girl at heart. But you love Baltimore! You have family in California though, right? The rent in Charlotte is a steal, but Charleston, I mean those seem like your people. While I agree with each and every one of those comments, the biggest lesson I have come to learn is that all of those places will always be there, and all of the people I love will always be everywhere. So for now, the only place I am focused on moving is forward. For me, somedays moving forward is getting up four minutes before a 9am call to get through the day, and others it’s up at seven, bright eyed and bushy tailed for a workout. Regardless, getting up each day, in whatever place that may be, is all you need to do to move forward. The rest? Well, it always seems to work out fine enough now doesn’t it?

Postgrad and during any transitional period it is difficult to assess what your “forward” looks like. For some, forward is leaving and for others it’s returning to a place of familiarity. But the great part is, you alone get to make the call 100% of the time. People will give you their two cents… and sometimes a few more. They will tell you to the best place is in your hometown, saving up, others will tell you it’s where your work is, or where your friends are, and pretty much your entire Tik Tok for you page will tell you it’s New York City. But to me, it’s all of those places and more… when the time is right. Learning to trust the timing of your life, and the notion that the intentional path you’ll follow will be the one you were meant to take. And for now, if you’re struggling with the feeling of wanting to be in two places at once, or wanting to be at your next step, I advise you to freaking relax, do a little dance and realize the beauty between the place you are in and the place you’re getting to, may just be the best part of the journey after all.

Be where your feet are! You’re doing great.