Today marks the seventh week I've been on the road since I gave away nearly everything I owned in Oakland and started this journey. It's already been such a whirlwind—I feel like I have been going from day to day trying to keep my head above water most of the time. But, the more time that goes on, I feel like I am getting more into my groove.
Since the day I left, there's honestly been a sense of semi-frenetic energy that carries with me throughout the majority of my days. And part of me has been wondering if it inevitably has to do with the fact that at the moment I don't really have a physical sense of "home"—as my definition of home has been changing with each location I go to. The last 1-2 weeks wherever I am, it's difficult not to be consumed with logistical thoughts such as "where am I going to stay?"; "what will my community look like there?"; "what type of work will I be doing—will it be fulfilling?"
I remember when I first drove into Delano, I felt skepticism and concern that perhaps a very long month was ahead. It was hovering around 110 degrees at times; the social and political climate felt much more hostile than coastal California; and I didn't know a soul. Those first few nights were a bit rough as I wondered what the rest of the journey had in store for me.
But when I left Delano, I reflected back at a number of wonderful people whom I hope to be connected with for quite some time.
After those first few days/nights in Delano, slowly but surely, I started to build more relationships—and that has truly made all the difference. I've had this discussion with a number of friends who have different roles within broader social justice movement work, and one thing is for certain: none of us can do it alone. Absolutely none of us. In fact, I dare say it may be an impossibility. And asking for help has typically not been one of my strong suits. But this project has me making some pretty bold asks! And almost every time, I have been blown away by the generosity and warmth of others. It is a touching commentary on the human spirit.
Particularly in my mobile and transitory state, it is important for me to be able to seek like-minded individuals who hopefully will become friends and confidants—fellow allies. The importance of a beloved community has always been of particular value to me, but that value has been bolstered even more so since I have been on the road.
My first week in Delano, it occurred to me that I would have to figure out an alternative sense of home—one that was more anchored in people and energies rather than a consistent sense of physical space. And don't get me wrong—I also totally recognize the value of space as well. One of my friends I met while doing a meditation retreat last year told me that establishing a routine was the essence of grounding an individual. Essentially, the routine is to help them from spiraling into despair. The more days that ensue, the more I am inclined to think he was totally right.
So, I've been redefining my essence of home as building some semblance of routine for myself (mostly in the early morning and right before I go to bed) and connecting with those who ultimately will define the essence of my time spent anywhere.
I once read a snippet by someone who has been traveling 16+ years and he said that the reason he continued to travel and why he did not feel totally untethered was because of his seeking out connections with other people—not just the places. I couldn't agree more.
Whether it's through the attorneys and advocates I meet in the places I am working in, the clients whom I am counseling, old and new friends who I meet in each location—they are truthfully the people who now comprise my definition of "home."
This week, I started at Immigration Legal Services in Portland, Oregon—a far cry from California's Central Valley in every way imaginable. Like many other metropolitan areas in the country, the city is undergoing massive urban renewal and as such, rents and the cost of living is skyrocketing. But there is still a pulse to this city that makes it undoubtedly Portland. (Side note: I also have never seen so many beer, donut, and ice cream shops per square mile in my entire life.)
The office I am working in is absolutely gigantic compared to the two attorney office in Delano. And in between taking breaks from typing up applications for clients seeking humanitarian-based immigration relief—I walk around the floor absorbing the energy from all of the other people working there.
And that's when I again realize that these people, too, are now part of my ever-evolving definition of home.