After 4 years, I have moved out of my cozy, historic, Spanish-style apartment. Even though these past 4 years are not more of an education than any other period of my life, the identical time span to that of college has made the comparison inevitable.
And even though I attended college for 4 years, I was not actually on site all that time. So I lived longer in this home than at college. Although I have lived in Atlanta for nearly all of the last decade, I moved frequently, usually every other year. I never lived in the same place for more than 2. In fact, the last time I lived in the same place for 4 years was with my family, while in high school, half my life ago.
In these 4 years, I have had many forms of study, if you will indulge the metaphor. Seminars in community organizing. Intensives in various forms of yoga. Classes on shamanism, ritual, spirituality. Practica in music production. In all, the time feels like a double major in adulthood and human existence. Adulthood meaning the logistics and responsibilities of living alone. Human existence meaning the emotional challenges and changes while living a path of self-determination.
And so it is a potent transition. My adulthood has not had many standard rites of passage. I do not have a graduate degree. I am not married. I do not have children.
Prior to this home, I had a housemate, who witnessed me endure some harsh experiences (unrelated to him). An intense relationship had ended. I knew it was for the best, but I was still devastated. A month later, I fell and nearly broke my arm. I was very fortunate to have a housemate at that time, since I couldn’t open a jar by myself for a few weeks.
Amidst all the upheaval, a close friend insisted that I read Women Who Run with the Wolves, a book that truly saved my life. It provided the therapy I could never have explained that I needed.
By that point, I was desperate to live alone again; I wanted to cocoon in my own sanctuary, mourn the changes privately. But as much as I pride myself on being confident and independent, I was still afraid about feeling lonely or abandoned. I was also afraid of the finances. But WWRW, in helping me learn to trust my intuition, also helped me muster the courage to live alone.
Unlike my application process to college, finding this home involved far less intention and debate. I wanted a cheap, convenient place to live. My only other critieria were wood floors and a gas stove. I’d rather compromise laundry, and even temperature, than clean floors and cooking.
My Spanish-style building is the epitome of “charming” in real estate brochures. Such a useful euphemism—in this case, also encompassing the conditions of no on-site laundry, as well as no a/c. (As you can imagine, people often thought I was crazy to live in the South without a/c.) But it is, in fact, charming. Stucco walls outside, arched doorways inside. Dark hardwood floors. Textured ceilings.
As I signed my lease, I promised myself that this move would be the start of a new phase of living and thinking and behaving and surrendering.
One of the items most carefully packed was my first Burning Man ticket. I had been curious about TTITD for years, and I had bought one without knowing how I would actually go. But I figured the ticket was the first step.
Another first step was establishing a consistent chanting practice. Helping organize the first Chantlanta a few months prior showed me that my current practice was a little too safe. Or maybe I was a little lazy, or hesitant due to fear. For years I had been too intimidated to practice the Hanuman chalisa, a 40-verse poem in Hindi. So I decided that I would practice it every morning.
During the charming apartment years, I attended Burning Man 4 times, as well as organized 4 more Chantlantas. Seemingly dissimilar events, but they are actually quite alike. Ultimately they are both community-building—not just my immediate circle, but a broader scale as well. My tasks usually involve publicity, fundraising, and lots of logistics. I’ve learned to love silent auctions.
Organizing Chantlanta introduced me to my bandmate, though we didn’t form Blue Spirit Wheel until hundreds of chalisas later. One of my most surreal moments in the past several years was hearing us on iTunes. And we just finished a second US tour.
This blog also began the first year of the charming apartment. The same friend who recommended WWRW had read my earlier writing, and at her urging I took a deep breath and put my real name on it when I shared it. The posts often felt like papers submitted every month. Now 700 people have subscribed to it. (!?!)
Additionally, my chosen family has grown exponentially. Some of my dearest friends and mentors have come from coordinating art projects on the playa. Most of the people who keep me grounded and inspired are ones I have met in the past 4 years, though we all agree we feel like we’ve known each other much longer.
Just as the end of college was a time of profound reflection, I’ve appreciated this time to consider the past 4 years, during packing that also felt familiar. After college I moved to Japan, without any experience of the language or the culture. Though I’m not doing anything that drastic, I want this juncture to create new opportunities and channels.
I have some ideas. But I’m also much better at surrendering to the universe. Had someone told me 4 years ago what would transpire while living in that oh-so-charming apartment, I never would have believed the predictions. And yet, as usual, reality is wilder than fiction.
So this transition is quite significant. More than 10 years ago, I graduated from college. This year, only a week past that anniversary, I have had another commencement.
SK © 2014