I went off the deep end the autumn of my twentieth year. The experiences that followed proved to be the most transformative events of my life, after I made the decision to get the hell outta Philly, a place I had called home a short while. I lived thirteen places that year, from Philly to Pittsburgh to Colorado to Washington State. I had never before been so brave, or had allowed myself to be so malleable, just going with the flow. No more attachments to material things, no address, no job, no security, just faith in the road, testing my perseverance and adaptability. The choice to leave behind everything and everyone familiar was liberating, scary, and essential to getting my head straight.
Ah, yes, The Gypsy Life. Strange experiences are guaranteed on a cross-country Greyhound bus, and I welcomed them with an open-mind and a manic sense of invincibility. I made friends with ex-convicts at a bus stop somewhere in the mid-west; they were eager to share their story with me after having been deprived of a woman’s gaze in who knows how long, though they were complete gentleman while in my company. They even looked out for me until we all inevitably went our separate ways, bus stop after bus stop eventually sending us in different directions. I enjoyed Halloween candy with a soldier who had just finished serving his time, candy that had been sent to Iraq by his mother to comfort him there. I slept next to strangers, my head falling on an available shoulder. I lost myself in the scenery as home dwindled away in the rear view.
The ramble was good, for a time, but after months of testing out new terrain, I settled down in Colorado. The people there are easy-going, the wide-open spaces give you room to breathe, and the mountains humble and transform you with their peaks and canyons. Rather than running off to explore, I stayed put to cultivate, to nurture the roots of my self-awareness. In Colorado I discovered that I was artist and uncovered that I was a survivor.
And now, here I am in Lancaster. After a series of rude awakenings and happy accidents, I have landed here, and my plans to really dig into this community have been made. I came here to create a home, to plant the seeds for my children and my life’s work. Forming meaningful relationships with the friends I have made here, empowering the people in whom I see extraordinary potential, building a home with John, staring a business about community with Jocelyn, sharing a life with my best friend since childhood, Alaina—these gifts to get grounded are priceless.
But. My gypsy heart sometimes calls out to me, reminding me of the joy in picking up and leaving everything behind. And so, the lesson about Lancaster is this: you gotta get the hell outta here every now and again to stay sane, to be reminded of why you came. We went to the beach mid-summer for just two days and shoot! I loved seeing Lancaster in the rear view mirror, shrinking behind me. I could smell the ocean and hear the waves the minute I relaxed into the long drive to the coast. Sunburn and margheritas and a mission to let go of housework and homework, that’s the ticket to success. That’s the reason having a place to call home is so powerfully positive—you can leave it behind and it will be there when you’re ready to return to it, with a fresh perspective and sand in your shorts.