The ease with which a person can put one life on hold and resume another astounds me.
Yesterday marked three weeks since I left Paris. In those three weeks I have slipped seamlessly into old routines, places, activities and relationships. I wear cut-off denim shorts and tee-shirts. I meet friends at the same coffee shops I’ve been going to since I was teenager. I drive my car through mountains and across deserts that have been the backdrop of my life story since the day I was born. My transition back into my American life in Arizona has appeared to be as painless as getting behind the wheel of my car—a fleeting moment of confusion; and then, keys in the ignition, foot on the pedal, go.
I look back often into my rearview mirror. Flickering blue eyes, suggestive smiles, illuminated monuments that never lost their luster, the smell of baking bread before the sunrise—these images and sensations are still vivid and tangible, yet when I recall them I feel the disappointment of memory. These memories will never capture the true experience, and they are rapidly being replaced with new ones—laughter with childhood friends, the sun rising over the Rincon Mountains, lifting myself into eight angle pose for the first time. If I am able to return to Arizona and fold so easily into my former life, how can I hope to preserve what I know of Paris and who I became there?
Yet, in my experience, transformation that unfolds under intense conditions in a short period of time leaves a much deeper mark than slow, gradual changes. I feel like I’ve changed more emotionally and spiritually in the past three years than I did within the entire first 18 years of my life. And I grew more during my year in Paris than I did in my first two years in Tucson. Of course, everything is cumulative, and the growing pains I had when I was 15, 16, 17 all added up, like deposits in my bank account, to get me where I am today.
So where am I? The place is hard to describe. There are small, visible characteristics: I no longer wear makeup, for instance, which I had done almost everyday since I was about 12. This tiny physical change indicates a much larger shift in my sense of self-worth, for, after the challenges I faced in Paris, I now put more value in my character than in my appearance. My posture is straighter, which, aside from being attributed to a year of regular Hatha yoga, also indicates my increased sense of inner strength. I carry myself confidently now, because I am proud of the person I am striving to become and of the life I am striving to lead.
What’s more is that I am finally in a place where I am more true to myself than I am to the system and expectations imposed upon me. For nearly three years I denied my innate desire to be a nurturer, a teacher and a healer. I told myself I needed to do something more practical with my life than help others, notably young women. So I tried on different hats—journalist, diplomat, politician, researcher, scholar. None of them fit, and I knew that, even as I was wearing them.
Now, after facing my demons for many a grey day in Paris, I can proudly and definitely say that I want to be a nurturer and healer of the human spirit. Concretely, this means becoming a yoga instructor, a youth mentor or counselor, and a teacher. I want to help young people become the best versions of themselves, as my greatest teachers and mentors have helped me to do.
My heart is open, my mind is expanded and my life feels, for the first time, like it is of my own design, a manifestation of my spirit. Here I am, in Tucson, Arizona, a better version of myself than I was when I stepped out of the métro and into the streets of Paris a little over a year ago.
Here I am, in Tucson, Arizona, and it’s the right place to be.
Smiles and all the best,